By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
They no longer cater to just the 7th and 8th Districts but in summer especially, the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) has seen an influx of participants beyond the boundaries of those two districts. And in an ideal world, Executive Director Stacy Mather would like to see YEP as a ‘go to program’ not just in terms of participants but, persons organizing sports knowing YEP is guaranteed to field participants.
In the program’s early development, Mather said they were focused on and zoned for the 7th and 8th Districts. In 2013 they opened the doors to children from other districts and he said they had about a third of more than 100 students enrolled coming from other districts from June, July and August. In 2014, he said two thirds of the 120 enrolled were from other districts and the other third from the 7th and 8th Districts.
“YEP is opened to all districts,” he said. “As long as you can get here and you meet the requirements, you’re welcomed. I’m not going to turn away children unless my numbers reach capacity.”
Children in the area Mather noted, has a deep interest in basketball and they have tried their uttermost to get them playing on the court adjacent to the YEP building, which is now in its eight year of operation. Mather has overseen the growth and development of the programs. YEP has become more visible fielding teams in ongoing leagues among its many program offerings.
While basketball has been the foundation sport, to cater to the needs of YEP’s diverse population, Mather said they have also tried introducing Volleyball, but even though it’s a sport that some my know in the primary school, it’s more popular in the high school and it has been very well received. They have also been very well received in the tournaments they have participated in, in Sea Cows Bay and at the Save The Seed Center.
“The nature of our community is a competitive community. Children love to compete, they love to win and they are interested in competing at any time,” he noted, but said there are challenges. “Like anything, when you’re dealing with children consistency is very important. We have the facility and try to have the material that’s necessary. Last year, we attempted to utilize coaches to help,” he added. “We have had persons who are very talented but time constraints wouldn’t allow them to assist. We have people that say ‘I’m coming, I’m coming’ but haven’t given us a time and a date and they still haven’t come. And we have those who show up and are willing, but might not have that nurturing spirit—that demeanor—to work with children. Its a situation where we are trying to find that right person.”
As a non profit organization, Mather said another issue would be funding as they are asking people to give of their time and some people, understandably, need to be compensated. “That’s our challenge now where sports are concerned but we continue to press on,” he stated. “Ideally, I would like to see YEP be a recognized organization where children will be participating in basketball, volleyball and other tournaments. But, I want when a tournament is going on, I want people to say ‘let’s call YEP because YEP is going to be involved.’ We also want to host our own activities—it’s quite necessary to do so.”
Mini Soccer and dodge ball are likely to be push this year he sais among their offerings, that also include art, basic painting, environmental studies, community service projects, visits to outer islands and aquatic based activities during the summer.
Animation and comic book reading have also been introduced. “We’re trying to get children more engaged in reading and we’re sneaking it up on them by watching the colors, watching the action and not realizing they are reading,” explained Mather, whose programs cater to persons outside the 7th and 8th Districts, particularly in summer. “We have gardening right now and a few other recyclable projects. We try to do confidence building, team building and self esteem type things and we also try to teach the children the importance of working together.”