Thursday, August 25, 2005

Youth sports program needs funding help

There is still a slim chance left to save a national youth program that affects almost 3,800 children in the state of Mississippi.

The National Youth Sports Program (NYSP), which provides sports, life skills and educational programming to children from low-income families since 1969, has been eliminated from the FY06 budget bill. The $18 million program can be saved by the Senate.

Parents, schools and neighborhoods have depended on this program for the past 37 years. Despite its “sports” name, NYSP has a broad mission.

Youth, ages 10-16, benefit from medical examinations and follow-up of pre-existing conditions prior to participating in the five-week summer program. NYSP ensures at least one healthy, USDA-approved meal daily, clothing, required swimming lessons, a math/science discovery program, drug and alcohol education and a safe, nurturing and disciplined environment at more than 200 colleges and universities nationwide. Last summer, over 75,000 youth participated in the program.

Rochelle Taylor, president of the National Youth Sports Corp., said the result will have a serious impact on the lives of young people who are helped and supported by this program.

“Sports are our way into helping their lives,” Taylor said. “It allows us to provide the meals, drug counseling and exposure to the college campus which inspires so many to avoid trouble and to work harder to do well in school.”

The National Youth Sports Corp. administers three national programs, among them the well known NCAA Youth Education through Sports Program.

The next major action on this issue will occur after the August congressional recess period. Senators must be aware how crucial this program is to the well being of so many underserved young people. It will cost society more to remove the safety netting that our National Youth Sports Program provides.

In Mississippi, NYSP is hosted by Alcorn State University, Hinds Community College, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi, Rust College, the University of Southern Mississippi and Tougaloo College.

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