June 15, 2007
National Youth Sports Program plays on with local supportWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Purdue's award-winning youth sports camp for children 10-16 who qualify based on income runs through July 13. The program, which started June 13, is a week shorter than previous camps because of the elimination of federal funding.
"Yes, we are teaching children how to play softball, volleyball and other team sports, but underneath the sports focus, there is a foundation of helping youngsters achieve successful futures," said William Harper, program director and head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology.
"We have observed a number of benefits for the children who have participated in our program. Parents and school leaders report these children are more motivated to stay in school and do well in their classes. One father even told me our program motivated his son to get in shape to try out for football. Another student was motivated to earn all A's and B's so he could return to camp to be a junior team leader."
Purdue's program has served more than 1,000 children since it began in 2002. About 300 children, who are selected based on referrals from Tippecanoe County schools each summer, learn about sports, nutrition, computer skills, writing, career opportunities and the dangers of substance abuse during the four-week program. The students are placed in teams of 15 and rotate through activity stations that include basketball, tennis, softball, swimming, soccer and volleyball. The older campers also get to participate in additional special activities. The stations are intentionally spaced about 10 minutes from each other to make sure each student walks at least one hour a day. Previous campers have received new shoes and swimsuits, as well as other participation prizes such as bicycles, as rewards for attendance and sportsmanship.
Last year, Purdue's program was one of 56 in the nation to receive partial funding in 2006. All federal funding has since been withdrawn from the program that once sponsored more than 200 camps, Harper said. Purdue is continuing the program with increased community support, including the recent Leroy Keyes NYSP Scramble fundraiser. The Office of the Provost and the Office of Engagement also are providing support this year.
Purdue is still partnering with the National Youth Sports Council who oversaw the program.
The Purdue camp costs about $300,000 to run, and in the past the national organization provided $75,000. The additional funds were raised by Purdue or provided as in-kind contributions.
"Our program has thrived because of the community support we have received over the years," Harper said. "But losing our base funding has resulted in trimming the program. We are capping attendance at 300, and we will be starting 30 minutes later each day and ending one week early. Even though the logistics are changed, this program will still run with an incredible amount of passion and heart."
One of the new activities this year is a two-week outdoor science class taught by five elementary school principals and an assistant superintendent from the Lafayette School Corp.
"Most of us have not taught regularly in a classroom for many years, and this is a welcome opportunity to teach, which is something we all really enjoy," said Greg Louk, principal at Oakland Elementary School. "Many of the NYSP children are our students, so we feel a special connection to the program."
The school administrators will teach language arts, ecology and environmental science June 18-29 at the Lilly Nature Center at the West Lafayette Celery Nature Bog Area. The other participating principals are from Glen Acres, Earhart, Vinton and Miami elementary schools.
Other new activities include learning golf for the older teams, bowling and wallyball.
The campers also will participate in career day July 10 at Ivy Tech, said activity director Bonnie Blankenship. There will be activity stations to teach the students about careers in agriculture, nursing, law enforcement, technology and science.
For the first time, the program also will have an artist-in-residence, graduate student Steven Clark, who will oversee the computer and writing instruction. The students will work on team logos. Clark is in the College of Education and an artist from Atlanta.
Because the program receives community support, giving back is a central theme for Purdue's program, Harper said. The campers participate in community outreach, such as helping the American Cancer Society set up its Relay for Life fundraiser, organizing items at Trinity Mission's thrift shop and visiting with veterans at the Indiana Veterans' Home.
Purdue also is studying how participation in the camp benefits children. Last year, research results were reported showing that participation in the camp has a significant effect on children's attitudes regarding education, self-perception and sportsmanship.
The national program has honored Purdue's camp for its achievements, including being named best new program in 2002 and special recognition for its 2004 and 2005 programs.
The Department of Health and Kinesiology is housed in Purdue's College of Liberal Arts.
Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, email@example.com
Sources: William Harper, (765) 494-3178, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonnie Blankenship, (765) 494-3188, email@example.com
Greg Louk, (765) 771-6130
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
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A publication-quality file photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2007/NYSP-banks.jpg
A publication-quality file photo is available at http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2007/NYSP-brees.jpg
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