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4/27/2017 Newsela | Basketball program helps boys believe in themselves, and behave better

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SPORTS (/articles/#/category/sports) (/articles/basketball-mentors/id/14289/quiz/) 6528 SHARE


Learning respect on the basketball court, and in the


classroom
By Akron Beacon Journal, adapted by Newsela sta
01.26.16

Kyle Early (third from left), founder of the Blue Program, prepares to start a basketball practice with a group of Akron sixth-graders at Crouse Community Learning Center in
Akron, Ohio, Dec. 10, 2015. The new, districtwide mentoring program aims to help the kids in the classroom and teaches them basketball skills for games they play on
Saturdays. Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/TNS

AKRON, Ohio A new basketball program is helping sixth-graders in Akron, Ohio. It teaches them to behave and
to believe in themselves.

The boys love basketball. The program uses this love to help them grow into respected and respectful men.

Silas Hardiman is one of the players. Last month, a classmate made fun of how he looked. Silas did not hit him.
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4/27/2017 Newsela | Basketball program helps boys believe in themselves, and behave better

If I would have hit him, Silas said, I would have been kicked off the team or benched.

Silas is among 76 students at seven elementary schools who are in the program. Basketball and other sports
normally are not available until seventh grade.

APerfectMix
Administrators think focusing more on middle school is a good idea. It is a time when more boys get into trouble as
their bodies and feelings change.

The basketball program costs less than $10,000 to run. A company called DC Heating & Cooling Inc. gave $1,540 to
help. The program already is paying off, said school official Dan Rambler.

Officials agreed with combining mentoring and athletics to make things better at the schools, he said. It was a
perfect mix of what they wanted to do for students, he said.

Students in the program gather once a week after school. They normally spend 15 minutes on the basketball court.
Another 105 minutes is spent in a classroom. They help each other catch up on homework while listening to
mentors, or adults who can give advice. These mentors focus on helping black youth. Each Saturday, the seven
teams play.

The weekly practices began in October. The final match is set for March 5.

The students do not get to play if they get into trouble or fail to meet weekly school goals. Teachers set the school
goals. The boys are behaving better. They are also doing better in reading and math, school administrators said.

LearningResponsibility
Kyle Earley decides who can play. He checks weekly progress reports. Earley makes the kids run tough drills for bad
behavior.

Earley works with young people at a local church. He graduated from an Akron high school in 1998. Then he
coached middle school basketball. Earley saw students skipping school last year. There were other behavioral
problems too.

He suggested the idea of creating a sixth-grade basketball league to Angela Harper. She is the principal at Crouse
school. She passed the idea along to Rambler and others in charge of student behavior, programs and athletics.

Earley brought in his sister, Ciara Dennis. She is a psychologist. She works with people on how they think and feel.

Dennis came up with a plan. It helps the mentors teach the boys to be responsible for their actions. The boys learn
to show anger in other ways, to understand and respect others and to be proud of who they are. Doing these things
frees them from the situations that keep many poor young people from achieving their dreams.

The health agency provides training and support to children and adults. It works in churches, schools and homes in
the community.

The basketball program is part of a larger effort. The idea is to get mentors, especially black men, to help these
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