Not all students have access to after-school sports programs. In fact, 60 percent of school districts in the United States require their students to pay to participate in sports at the middle school and high school levels. Many school districts don’t even offer sports to elementary-aged students. Through a formal partnership, Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation and Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) are changing those statistics. The result is GR8 Sports, Great Kids, an organization that makes after-school sports available to any GRPS student, regardless of ability to pay.
Within the GRPS district, 86 percent of households have an average annual income of $27,710. As a result, lower-income students either participate in organized sports later (fifth grade) than their higher-income peers (first grade) or can’t afford the “pay to play” cost.
These statistics have far-reaching implications. Children who are engaged in sports are more likely to be engaged and successful in school. School attendance improves, grades improve and self-confidence improves. And on-field skills translate to winning life skills, like teamwork, fortitude and perseverance.
On February 9, a press conference was held at MLK Leadership Academy to formally introduce GR8 Sports, Great Kids to the Grand Rapids community. The program gives every K-8 student within the Grand Rapids Public School district access to athletics and is funded by district and private dollars.
During the press conference, the Alger Middle School Competitive Cheer Team performed and GR8 Sports, Great Kids supporter Doug DeVos spoke to the community about the organization.
“You are our future,” DeVos said after the cheer team performed. “You learn so much today by being part of a team. You should take every opportunity and you deserve every opportunity. “
Eighth Grader Danyel Bibbs is a three-sport athlete at Westwood Middle School who represents the students who excel through sports opportunities. Bibbs is one of two students who shared testimonials at the press conference. “I work hard on my grades for my team,” he said. “Last semester I had a 3.6 GPA.
I’m proud of myself.”
Eighth Grader Danyel Bibbs is a three-sport athlete at Westwood Middle School who represents the students who excel through sports opportunities. Bibbs is one of two students who shared testimonials at the press conference.
“I work hard on my grades for my team,” he said. “Last semester I had a 3.6 GPA.
For the 2015/2016 school year, GRPS expects field 151 middle school teams in 14 sports that engage more than 2,500 student participants. At the elementary school level, GRPS offers six sports and has more than 3,500 student participants. Thanks to GR8 Sports, Great Kids, these after-school sport experiences come at no cost to the students or their families. Students sign up through their individual schools and GRPS coordinates all programming, including overseeing coaches, volunteers and sports events.
Current sports offerings include: coed cross-country (K-8), boys football (6-8), girls volleyball (6-8), boys soccer (3-8), girls soccer (3-8), boys basketball (3-8), girls basketball (3-8), boys wrestling (6-8), coed bowling (6-8), boys baseball (6-8), girls softball (6-8), coed competitive cheer (6-8), coed track (K-8) and coed swim (6-8).
To check out our coverage from the press conference, please see the links below: