Step Up To The Plate: Celebrating National Mentorship Month at the Nationals’ Youth Baseball Academy
by Tal Alter
Over 20 years ago, Charles Barkley kicked up a national debate about the impact of professional athletes in society. “I am not a role model,” he famously quipped.
While the indirect effect of professional athletes on kids might be up for debate, what’s absolutely clear is the meaningful difference a direct and consistent mentor can make in the lives of kids who need positive influences.
January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.
At the Academy, we call these young people our “scholar-athletes” – a term that reflects our two-fold commitment to helping them become physically fit and develop baseball skills, but also achieve academic success, enhanced confidence, and – ultimately – become young men and women of character.
All of our scholar-athletes live in either Ward 7 or 8, neighborhoods experiencing the challenges of high crime and poverty rates. In these areas, fewer than 30% of elementary school students receive proficient test scores in math and reading, with astonishing high school dropout rates. Of youth who complete the 8th grade in these two Wards, 60% have vanished from the system by 10th grade.
These harsh realities can seem overwhelming and disheartening. But with a mentor at their side, our scholar-athletes are empowered to triumph over these statistics. At-risk youth who have a mentor in their lives are 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities. They’re more than twice as likely to hold a leadership position in a club or team. They’re more than 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who don’t have a mentor.
But approximately 9 million at-risk youth will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, thus missing out on a relationship that could positively change the arc of their future.
We’re helping to close that gap at Nats Academy, where community volunteers turn out every night to serve as coaches, tutors and mentors for our scholar-athletes. They are dedicated to being a real, consistent and positive presence.
Over the coming weeks, we’re going to introduce you to some of these remarkable individuals. People who’ve made the decision to stand-up and declare “I am a role model,” and are putting those words into action. They’ll be guest bloggers here on the Curly W blog – giving their first-hand perspective on the Nats Academy and the role they play in the lives of the young men and women we serve.
We hope their stories inspire you to become a mentor – at the Nats Academy or wherever you have a chance to make a positive difference in the life of a young person.
For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit: http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/getinvolved.jsp