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Finding Space to Be Active & Healthy
From Court to College, Metroball Helps Take Kids Off the Streets
“We show kids that there’s more to life, and we give them more choices than what they think they have,” Metroball President Terrance Judge said, telling success stories of how they have worked with kids to steer them away from a life of violence. “Not having a consistent facility hinders what we’re trying to do. I think there should be an easier process to use facilities for nonprofits and programs that are there to help youth.”
NAVIGATING THE SYSTEM
Current Process Leaves Kids off the Field
Despite many challenges along the way, DC Stoddert Soccer has grown from just a couple hundred youth to what is now close to 7,000 kids participating in its soccer organization.
Former Executive Director Doug Homer explains that while using school space for their programs offers kids an enhancement of what they’re already learning in the classroom, there are several shortcomings with the current permitting process including fees, politics and bias, and a general lack of transparency.
“For an outdoor sport like soccer, there are very few places in the city that you can go to that have both lights and an all-weather surface,” Homer says. “This puts groups like ours in a difficult situation – either rent space that’s not desirable or rent fields that are very expensive.”
Not Having a Space to Bring Exercise to the Community
The biggest obstacle many people face when trying to lose weight or stay healthy is finding a convenient place to exercise.
LVL 10 Lifestyle & Fitness is trying to help the community lose weight, cook healthier meals for their families and get well. And, Chris Bradley and his team of coaches try to make it easy by coming to them, showing people how to use the spaces in their neighborhoods for fitness, and not forcing them to join a gym.
Schools – with their tracks, fields and courts – are perfect places for the community to be active. However, when Bradley tried to reserve space, he found out the schools were charging $90 an hour, “and it was too much money,” he said. “We never ended up using the space because the cost was unacceptable.”
“The benefit is mainly for the community, not for me,” he said. “The benefit would be helping the community to lose weight through exercise, fitness, nutrition and the like classes. … For public schools, taxpayers in the community pay for it, so it should be accessible to them.”
Tell your councilperson that you’d like to be able to use the recreation spaces when school isn’t in session.
Schools Provide "Save Haven for Kids"
Team sports offer learning opportunities outside the classroom. Potomac Valley Amateur Athletic Union has a mission of assisting athletes of all ages with the “growth and development of their athletic, educational, and social skills.” From football to dance, soccer to taekwondo, even adult basketball leagues, the AAU empowers people to be both leaders and team players while being healthy – and they do this by utilizing D.C. schools.
“The local schools and community centers will always be place of comfort and support in the community,” says P.K. Martin, the governor of the Potomac Valley region of the AAU. The schools’ “accessibility provides a safe haven for the kids. It helps bond the community together.”
PROVIDING A SAFE SPACE
When School Is Not in Session,
Boys & Girls Club Keeps Kids Active
Schools are important places for the community beyond just the classroom. After hours, they can be a safe environment to keep kids active and learning – if schools allow the community to utilize their space.
When school isn’t in session for summer, winter and spring breaks, many kids “still need a place to go during the day to keep them busy and off of the streets,” says Yolanda Gales of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, which has worked out a partnership with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation to offer day camps at some D.C. schools during these times. “Having a facility open for those children is a big help to the working single parent who cannot take off or take their child to work with them.”
Because the Boys & Girls Club have been able to use the neighborhood schools, “the children have come to know this space as a fun and safe place for them to come to when not at home or school,” which keeps kids excited about school and makes the community stronger, says Gales.
Please encourage your school principal or councilperson to open up the schools to the community.
We really need “more weekend activities and more funding for after school activities,” urges Gales.