As many of us could agree, middle school is one of the most challenging times in a child’s life. The struggle to fit in and be liked by peers is constant and very real for an 11-13 year old.

A report from Princeton University details some of the struggles in middle childhood including low self-esteem, anxiety and pressure to achieve academically. Not to mention the 28% of students who report that they have experienced bullying. The report goes on to say, however, that, “Out-of-school programs can play a valuable role in buffering children against some of these problems” (p. 36).

Programs like After School Sports allow these students a chance to socialize with their friends in a safe, structured and positive environment. 

Every week a group of middle school students meet to play with their peers and interact with the local college students. Unlike other after school athletic programs, After School Sports teaches these students the basics of many popular sports including, but not limited to:

  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Kickball
  • Bowling
  • Track & Field

This program is unique, however, in that it addresses a greater community need.

Children in low-income families often do not have the opportunity to participate in programs like this due to financial hardship. They are instantly separated from their peers and, to some extent, are faced with the hard reality that they are worse off than those around them. Just like the Princeton report indicates, this could add to the detrimental challenges associated with middle childhood.

After School Sports is free of charge to all families.

Not only does this give students a chance to be a part of something, it gives the parents a space for their children to engage with peers and mentors in a place they can trust.

This program is one of many around the country trying to eliminate the stigma of the ivory tower and make the university accessible and approachable to the community.

Sterling Young, a student service leader over After School Sports, says for him the program is, “interactive and a great way to serve others.” The more students can interact with leaders like Sterling, the better chance they have to be successful in school and envision positive futures for themselves.

For more information about After School Sports and the SUU Community Engagement Center, check out my About the Center post or visit the Community Engagement Center Homepage.

To find volunteer opportunities in your area, check out Volunteer Match.

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