Dennis Harris has been the program administrator of Case Western Reserve University's National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) since 1996, and he's watched it evolve into a multifaceted program that's making a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of young people every year.
"We've turned NYSP from simply being a summer sports program into incorporating academics, and from incorporating academics into saving lives," said Harris, the university's director of youth programs. "As a variety of adult-like health issues continue to increase for many youth across the nation, one of our main goals at NYSP is to teach young people how to adopt healthier lifestyles through fitness and nutrition. The camp is a great vehicle to do this, as well as to plant the seeds of success for access to higher education."
The university's NYSP program is celebrating two major feats this year. Due to its success in helping local children stay busy, healthy and physically active, the City of Cleveland earmarked $60,000 for the program. NYSP is celebrating 40 years on the national level, and the university's chapter will mark its 38th year on campus with an open house beginning at 10 a.m., June 20 in Strosacker Auditorium. Parents of current and future campers, as well as the campus community, NYSP board members and City of Cleveland officials are invited to come out and see how NYSP helps hundreds of young people walk a successful path. Open house attendees will have an opportunity to watch a video presentation, tour educational and athletic workshops, hear testimonials from several NYSP alumni, and talk with the camp's children and staff.
NYSP at Case Western Reserve is a five-week summer sports and academic enrichment program primarily geared toward children of low-income families in the Greater Cleveland area. Children ages 10-16 participate in a variety of activities throughout the camp's duration, including basketball, swimming and other athletic events. They also receive tutoring and instruction in reading, mathematics, science and other academic subjects, as well as information on health, nutrition and physical fitness.
NYSP also is on the frontlines of combating national health issues -- including childhood obesity, asthma and high blood pressure -- at the local level. Campers receive health screenings from the university's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and School of Medicine students, and participate in at least three and a half hours of physical activity per day. In addition, the children are exposed to opportunities in higher education.
Harris said several NYSP participants throughout the years have gone on to attend Case Western Reserve, in part due to their exposure to the university's campus, students and staff. This summer, over 400 young people are participating in NYSP at Case Western Reserve. Since 1970, over 14,000 children have been enrolled in the program.
"We've had so many campers who've gone on to do great things," Harris said.
The star of one of those success stories is Ricardo Franklin. An NYSP camper from 1987 through 1990, Franklin came back to the program to work under the tutelage of Harris. He rose through the ranks from NYSP football instructor to its current activities director, and was recently named head men's and women's track and field coach at his alma mater, Thiel College, in Greenville, Pa. Although he's spending the summer commuting between three cities -- Cleveland, Greenville and Youngstown, Ohio, -- where he's taking classes -- he wouldn't have it any other way. "I came from nothing and I came up through NYSP," he said. "I know there's another Ricardo Franklin, and there's an opportunity to take someone from nothing and to give them something."
Harris describes Franklin as his "right hand man," and said the two "have laughed and cried together." That's because they and others who devote their time to the NYSP camp -- including advisory board members, counselors and even some of the participants -- have seen and known of children throughout the camp's history who wouldn't have had a full meal, a place to go or exposure to a different type of learning environment if it weren't for the program.
"I am proud of the history and impact this program continues to make in the Greater Cleveland community," Harris said. As the NYSP participants continue to make Case Western Reserve their home over their next several weeks, he said the open house will be an opportunity for the campus community to put names with the faces, and to get a small -- but powerful -- glimpse at just how much these young people learn, achieve and thrive.
To RSVP for the open house, contact Harris via e-mail, or by phone at 368-4843.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.