State Rep. Antonio Parkinson: "Don’t have anything to do. That’s the one thing I hear from students. ... And so, we are here to answer that call.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

Applications now are being accepted for the Tennessee Mentorship and Sports Grant administered by the SchoolSeed Foundation and fueled by a $500,000 state appropriation largely shepherded by Tennessee Rep. Antonio Parkinson.

Existing leagues, leagues to be established and individual teams serving youth up to 18 years old are eligible if they meet other key criteria, notably including a nonprofit affiliation.

Existing leagues (with a maximum of 30 teams) may apply for up to $1,500 per team. Individual teams may apply for up to $1000 but cannot do so if they are part of an application for an existing-league grant. Applicants establishing a league may apply for up to $500.

The application deadline is Dec. 14. To apply, visit SchoolSeed.

(Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

The grant was rolled out recently during a presentation orchestration by Parkinson at the Ed Rice Community Center in Frayser.

“Don’t have anything to do. That’s the one thing I hear from students,” said Parkinson. “And so, we are here to answer that call.”

Detailing that $500,000 had been put into the state budget for youth sports and mentorship programs, Parkinson framed the grants as “an investment in our children’s futures and their successes.”

Turning to the children assembled, Parkinson said, “These children … will build our workforce development needs, that will build the jobs that you oversee, that will become our next business owners … our next business owners, our next superstars, and our next academic superstars also in the classroom.”

With the grants directed toward sports programs, Parkinson detailed three key embedded components: academic, mentorship and community service.

“While we have this whole idea and strategy in youth sports, it’s so much more bigger than youth sports,” said Parkinson, “it’s about shaping the character and shaping the lives of our children so that they avoid those pitfalls, those cracks, that are out there for them, and become the best citizens that we could possibly allow them to become.”

Parkinson, who coached the Raleigh Central Tigers for about four years, talked about the sacrifice of coaches and parents.

“This money … can be used for equipment, for fees, for traveling, for coaching stipends, for uniforms, insurance, whatever is needed for these babies to be able to get involved in youth sports. … That’s why this investment is vitally important.”

SchoolSeed is the intermediary for the state grant. President/CEO Vincent J. McCaskill referenced “building up a whole child. … We can’t put it all on the back of our schools. We have to fill the gap. We know that there are countless numbers of mentors, coaches, parents who are involved in these sports leagues.…”

McCaskill envisioned the Tennessee Mentorship and Sports Grant sparking conversation in communities across Tennessee “where there are other people who want to step up to the table to provide other supports to our kids and communities.”

Encouraging applications, SchoolSeed President/CEO Vincent J. McCaskill (center) assured that “the process is a fair process. We have a committee, a grant committee, that will be going through grants.” (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises/The New Tri-State Defender)

McCaskill had praise for Parkinson’s push for grant funding and Gov. Bill Lee’s support. Parkinson, a Democrat, particularly noted bipartisan for the grant funding, calling by name Lee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally among others.

He also noted the work of the Tennessee Black Caucus, House Minority Leader Karen Camper of Memphis, and his staff.

Parkinson said the state budget process “literally ran me over like a train” for many years.

“About five years into me being elected, I started getting a little wiser and started trying to run with the train. But yet still, getting flattened,” he said.

“Then finally close to eight years in, I finally started understanding the budget and understanding the process and understanding the politics of the budget, which is most important, and we were able to get this money allocated for our children.”

(Apply for the Tennessee Mentorship and Sports Grant at