Lowell Youth Leadership program hosts launch event – Lowell Sun
LOWELL – Developing a new generation of leaders and providing opportunities traditionally inaccessible to disadvantaged youth is at the heart of the Lowell Youth Leadership Program, which officially launched on Thursday evening.
The new program will debut next summer at the Greater Lowell Technical High School campus. It draws heavily on the National Youth Sports Program, held at UMass Lowell from 1991 to 2007. The program was designed to enrich at-risk youth aged 10-16.
Larry Wilson, a National Youth Sports Program alumnus, will be the chair of the Lowell Youth Leadership Program. When Wilson went to the original National Youth Sports Program, his mother worked two and sometimes three jobs to support the family. Her father was not very involved in her life.
On Wilson’s first day there, he met the director of the National Youth Sports Program, Ed Scollan, in the office. He wasn’t sure how he ended up in his office, but suggested that “the universe works in the strangest and most unique way.”
âI think they put me there with Ed, because the universe wanted me to see what a leader was. My father was not very involved in my life, Ed became not only my father figure, but a leader in my life, âWilson said.
While hanging out with Scollan, Wilson said he was able to learn many skills not only from his demeanor but also from the way he kept the program together. People were smiling and had opportunities. But he also learned to be careful.
It was an experience echoed by Sam Hor, who first met Wilson on the program. The incident happened on Hor’s first day of swimming lessons when he jumped from the top of the diving board, landing on his face with a bloody nose. Wilson was the first person to offer her help and take her to the nurse.
As Hor takes a leadership role in the Lowell Youth Leadership Program alongside Wilson, he thinks about his own children and the students he has at Lowell High School.
âKids are so wired these days that we need an outlet so they can express themselves in a positive way and be able to have goals so they can repeat this process in the future,â Hor said. .
Hor is one of the successes of the program. He said growing up in a poor neighborhood sometimes meant “throwing stones” and “breaking windows”. The national original youth sports program offered him something that others “can take for granted.”
Similar to Hor, Andy Lopez went from the national youth sports program to teaching. Lopez is a professor of health at Robinson Middle School and believes the program guided him to become a teacher.
Lopez said he remembered the âgrilled cheeseâ he had at the National Youth Sports Program, but it symbolized something much bigger – it symbolized access and hope.
âThey say the only barrier for kids is access,â Lopez said. âYou give a child access from the city center, you give them hope and you give them opportunities, you give them a change of mind. That’s what I think when I think of the program is that I never would have thought of you swimming or playing tennis.
Even those who worked at the National Youth Sports Program felt shaped by it, including Matt Dibble who worked there while attending UMass Lowell. In Dibble’s opinion, his work there inspired him to become a teacher.
Helen Blaschke has many memories of the original program and her work as a nurse, and said, âIt’s fun to see the kids who were campers start over.
State Representative Tom Golden D-Lowell said the program will be “a real game changer” and said he feels the personal connections through the stories shared. Golden added that he saw the organizers love the “generation that is near” and provide them with opportunities to succeed.
As the program prepares for its first summer, Wilson said sports are part of what the Lowell Youth Leadership Program will offer, but the emphasis is on teaching life skills, designed to make someone ‘a better leader and a better person.
With the new program, Scollan also said he will stay involved. Scollan took charge of the national youth sports program in his second year, having coordinated the basketball program in his first year. Former UMass Lowell athletic director Dana Skinner gave him the promotion.
Skinner remembers the program bringing out the best in the community, even among its youngest residents.
To this day, Skinner remembers the âTop Five,â which were a group of five 10-year-old girls who lived near the UMass Lowell campus. Every day, they came to wait in front of the cafeteria.
“I asked her one day, you know, why are you here? And they said ‘because we want to pour the orange juice.’ They just wanted to help. They were 10 years old and they wanted to help run the program and I just thought if that was our target audience that would be a lot of fun, âSkinner said.
Although Scollan ran the program from 1992 until its eventual termination in 2007, Skinner remained involved. As the program faced budget cuts from Congress, Skinner remained an advocate, but in the end, enough minds could not be changed.
As a new generation learns from the national youth sports program, Skinner said he was proud and impressed.
The Lowell Youth Leadership Program hopes to be a free option for underserved members of the Lowell community. To donate to the organization or to find out more, visit: lylp.org.