The National Youth Sports Program has hit a homerun as it reaches its 40th anniversary in serving Cleveland area youth with summer fun and fitness. NYSP will again shape minds and bodies, June 14 to July 16, when it hosts its five-week camp on Case Western Reserve University’s campus.
Enrollment opens for this year’s program on June 4, 5 and 6 in Adelbert Gymnasium on the CWRU campus. An open house will take place on June 21 to celebrate the 40th anniversary. The event’s special guest will be U. S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, who has introduced a new bill to expand the NYSP program nationally.
“We’ve been making a difference in young people’s lives for decades,” said Dennis Harris, NYSP director. The CWRU camp is one of only 27 programs left in the United States from the original 202 federally funded programs.
“We have many success stories like you find in the film, The Blind Side. Without this program, many youth may have fallen through the cracks,” Harris said.
He has been with the program since 1996 and has become a popular figure known as “Coach Harris” to participants--many who have returned for several summers as participants and later as program volunteers.
NYSP is not just for youths, it also is about involving parents. Parents are required to accompany their children to enroll in the program, at which time volunteers from CWRU’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and School of Medicine provide physicals to assess the health of each child.
The program, housed in the CWRU Department of Student Affairs, is about being fit. It encompasses sports, nutrition, education and health activities and brings in students from the nursing and medical schools to support these endeavors.
Mental fitness comes when CWRU faculty members open their classrooms to the youth between the ages of 10 and 16 to variety of subjects from chemistry to engineering robots.
From the sidelines, Harris is also coaching youth to healthy goals and has organized the camp to combat some major health problems facing some of these youth – obesity, diabetes and hypertension.
“The program provides a positive environment for Cleveland children,” says Cal Long, an athletic coordinator with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
He works with Harris to provide this “positive experience” for more than 550 disadvantaged Greater Cleveland area youth.
The all-day program provides valuable resources to an age group sandwiched between the pre-school or elementary school programs and the Upward Bound program for high school students.
“This is an important age. If we don’t capture their attention and provide them what they need, we miss an important opportunity,” Harris said.
NYSP participants rotate through more than 10 sports activities as well as arts, dance, hands-on science and math and other education programming. All campers take swimming as an important life-safety skill.
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