-- Now in its 19th year, the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP)
at The University of Southern Mississippi continues to enrich the
lives of economically disadvantaged children, mostly from the Hattiesburg
The NYSP at
Southern Miss is funded by a $73,700 grant from the NCAA, which
also supplies athletic apparel and equipment. The program provides
athletic and educational activities for boys and girls ages 10-16.
In addition to children from Hattiesburg participating this year,
there are also youth from Jefferson Davis County taking part.
program began on June 9 and will run through July 14. During that
time, as many as 320 children per day will participate in activities
at three different sites. At Southern Miss's Lake Sehoy, children
will be taught drug education and will also participate in canoeing,
fishing and volleyball. At the university's Sports Arena, youth
will participate in math and science activities, play basketball
and soccer and take part in a general fitness class.
At Dahmer Park,
the educational focus will be on nutritional education, and athletic
activities will include swimming, tennis and softball.
At the end
of the program, there will be an awards day to recognize exceptional
participants in each activity.
and activities are coordinated by 34 volunteer instructors from
the university and the local community.
a graduate student in the School of Human Performance and Recreation,
acts as liaison officer for the program. He said the positive impact
on the young participants was easy to see.
really develop in the month we have them, in many ways," Christian
said. "We see a lot of change in a lot of the children.
of them come in and want to show off in front of their friends.
But you can find a leader in a group of kids. And if you can reach
that leader, and get them to do what they should do, then the rest
of the kids will follow along."
The NYSP at
Southern Miss is structured to alleviate as much burden as possible
from the parents whose children participate, Christian said. All
the children who participate must first pass a physical exam from
a physician, provided free of charge by the NYSP. Also, children
are picked up and shuttled to and from the activity sites in buses
provided by the Hattiesburg Public Schools.
are very supportive of it," Christian said. "Most of the
feedback we get is very positive, that the kids are enjoying themselves,
having a good time."
In the weeks
leading up to the program's start date, Christian and other NYSP
staff use public service announcements to let the community know
about the activities. But after 19 years of providing activities
and learning opportunities to the Hattiesburg community's youth,
word of mouth may be the most effective form of promotion NYSP enjoys.
Christian said that it's not unusual to have children come back
year after year.
nice seeing kids we had when they were 10-years-old who are now
15, 16," Christian said.
to Christian, other NYSP administrative staff members include Dr.
Mark Maneval, activity director; Dr. Terry Kinney, project administrator;
and Amos Mansfield, medical coordinator.
is one of 200 institutions in 175 communities participating in the
NYSP nationwide. Approximately 75,000 children will participate
in NYSP learning and athletic activities this summer.
The NYSP began
in 1969, with the mission of combining athletic activities with
learning. Its focus is on giving the children of low-income families
positive memories and useful skills. To that end, it is required
that 90 percent of participants meet national poverty guidelines.