Many people don’t think about the contributions of middle schoolers—they see them as a deficit rather than an asset. However, we believe this intermediate age is important in developing community stakeholders. The programs are named 28.5 and 29.5 after the basketball sizes used for each of those respective levels. 28.5 is open to 4th-6th grade youth and 29.5 is open to 7th-8th grade youth. 28.5 and 29.5 bring together the elements of sport, art, and community service to create a sense of personal and social responsibility in middle schoolers.
28.5 and 29.5 youth form teams to participate in our Neighborhood Sports Little Village leagues. The youth meet two times a week, once to practice and once for game days. Both practice days and game days provide opportunities for youth to refine not only their sport skills, but also their communication, leadership, teamwork, and self awareness skills, through drills and games. On practice days, youth also engage in non-sport team challenges and activities to further explore and strengthen their sense of personal and social responsibility off the court/field.
These twice a week after school sessions are not the end of the 28.5 & 29.5 programs. The youth involved become leaders in our community through ongoing service learning projects and opportunities. The youth take part in an annual community clean up day called “Our Little Village” where they come together, with their families, to help beautify and revitalize our campus. They help with cleaning, gardening, painting, and general maintenance of the campus which includes the playground, soccer field, and basketball courts. Caring for and maintaining the campus establishes a sense of community ownership, which is essential to to their development as community stakeholders. They also further develop as stakeholders by volunteering to serve as “Youth Coaches” for our Bitty Ball program during the school year and our Project Play program during the summer.