By Vivian Smith
Freelance Writer for Black Voice

Cultivating and inspiring the minds of our youth to achieve their dreams is a challenging task, but for the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP), children are easily encouraged to achieve life long goals through physical fitness and education.

This 5-week program held on the UC Riverside campus is the location for over 300 NYSP participants. “We want them [youth] to get exposed to and interested in college, and also develop an idea and interest for a career,” says Dr. E. M. Abdulmumin, project administrator. Dr. Abdulmumin envisioned the many benefits that the program would offer not only for the youth, but for the local community as well. “They learn the importance of education and that learning is a life long process.”

Students traveled from various parts of the local community including Moreno Valley, Perris, Corona, and San Bernardino, to participate in this nationally acclaimed program.

NYSP makes it convenient for parents travelling from other cities by providing buses for students.

“There’s buses that pick them up. They make it so easy for the parents and it’s a positive environment,” says parent Regina Enriquez, whose daughter Chantal Enriquez is participating in the program for the first time. “They provide a lot more than anything I could’ve gotten at a mini sports camp,” Mrs. Enriquez adds.

NYSP has physical fitness activities as a main focus for the program.

“We offer several different sports; track and field and football, basketball, karate, soccer, and swimming,” says Jason Perkins, activities director.

Participation is reinforced with physical activities and educational development. “It takes a holistic approach and emphasizes being an athlete and a scholar and it provides so much for them in an environment that you are not going to get anywhere else,” says Nate Irvin, track coach.

In addition to sports and fitness, NYSP participants are encouraged to reach their goals and are also given the confidence and support to achieve their dreams. This educational focus provides courses in math and science, general education, gang prevention, drug awareness, and college prep. For many of the students this means experiencing, applying, and developing new strategies for goal obtainment.

“We go over setting goals, and we want the students to realize that there are steps you need to prepare yourself to get into a 4-year university,” says Tarnisha Powers who teaches the college prep class and is also a student at UCR.

Everything form college entrance exams to job interviews, NYSP provides college preparatory skills and advice for each participant.

“They [the participants] get the tools tangible and intangible to get them through life’s inevitable challenges with class and dignity, and with a positive attitude,” says José Pérez, NYSP liaison officer.

Each participant is given one-on-one attention needed for a positive learning experience. Individual groups are formed and are assigned to a counselor known as a “project aid” for the duration of the program.

“My favorite thing are the counselors, they make me feel like family,” says 6th grade participant John King of Riverside.

In conjunction to the participants receiving many benefits from the program, NYSP staff benefits from the program as well. They experience a sense of giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of our youth.

“I love the program, the kids, and the interaction. They have a positive impact on me and I go home feeling good about myself,” says Mark Peters, project aid for NYSP and a current UCR student.

According to Dr. Abdulmumin, there is definite proof in the success of NYSP. Dr. Abdulmumin says many of the students who participate in the program return to volunteer and help the newer students at NYSP.

“I was previously a participant a few years ago, I kept in touch with my counselor, and now I assist and help students who may lack enthusiasm and hopefully create a spark of passion,” says Sean Lewis of Perris, California.

Overall, NYSP incorporates all elements needed for success in life. There is competition, structure, guidance, and inspiration. With the help of volunteers and the dedicated NYSP staff, the program continues to change lives one youth at a time.

“NYSP is not a routine, it is a way of life… a program designed after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. to reach inner city youth,” says Eric Taylor, activities assistant and a graduating senior at UCR.

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