When thinking about City Year, its AmeriCorps members, and the mighty red jackets, what comes to mind for many are tutors and teaching assistants inside the classroom. This can be expected, since the classroom setting is where City Year’s presence is seen and felt most. However, City Year’s mission calls for corps members to also serve as near-peer mentors to students as well. A near-peer mentor is someone old enough to offer guidance, yet young enough to relate to students' perspectives. This can be seen at Penn Treaty School where City Year offers a Hoops and Mentoring after school program that enables corps members to mentor students not just in the classroom, but on the basketball court.
Hoops and Mentoring takes place every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The first 30 minutes are used for empowering lessons and discussions with the last hour being a time for basketball skill development. The program is open to the entire student body yet in order to attend, students must apply and submit a daily report, a way to show accountability for both academic performance and behavior throughout the school day.
The Hoops and Mentoring space shares an array of topics from empowerment, future goals, and courageous conversations that push students to think outside the box. The program serves as a place for students to express not only their interests in sports, but in life.
“Hoops and Mentoring started from a need,” says Maurice Williams, City Year Philadelphia Impact Manager at Penn Treaty. “Our young people need us to invest in them more. In an environment where they often don’t see themselves being valued, appreciated, or poured into, I felt there was an opportunity for impact. They put on tough exteriors to survive, but many are internally crying out for support, love, guidance, and an embrace from more of us to show we truly care.”
From the corps member perspective, 1st Year City Year AmeriCorps member Eugene Thomas says Hoops and Mentoring serves as another connection point. “It allows me to make personal connections with our students which helps us relate on a social-emotional level and really understand how their lives are each day. I find that these personal connections are organic, but they have taken time to build, which has made it even more rewarding.”
Most of the student participants say the program is an opportunity for them to not be in the streets. “On Tuesdays and Thursday, I’m not really doing anything after school. Hoops and Mentoring gives me the opportunity to past time in a safe space while also getting put on to some good advice,” shares Rasheen, an attendee at the program.
To this end, corps member Eugene Thomas says that for other young people considering a year of service with City Year, he’d want them to know Hoops and Mentoring goes far beyond basketball.
“It serves as a place of understanding the minds of our young people who may just want a role model. It serves as a place of comfort, compassion, respect, and warmth. It’s a service to students who may not find the purpose in understanding how impact can translate into empowerment. I would want someone who serves to know that Hoops and Mentoring breaks down barriers of self-doubt, low self-confidence, and attitudes of learned behaviors. Hoops and Mentoring is a place of challenge, aiming to construct a space for students to feel listened to and understood.”
If you are interested in mentorship and working with students in programs such as Hoops and Mentoring, consider serving with City Year Philadelphia. Submit an application before May 31st to join our 2019-2020 corps.