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Made to Play program put LaRose-area students on the move

The Made to Play program at LaRose Elementary School had a six-weeks mission – get kids active this summer. Catering to students in grades K-5, the focus was on providing them with one hour of physical activity five days a week.

The program wrapped up June 29. Along the way, children were taught different sports, such as volleyball and basketball, while doing daily exercises, cardio activities and stretching.

Made to Play, designed to improve the physical fitness and well-being of children, was  part of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis (WFGM) Vision 2020 strategic plan, which has a goal to reduce poverty by 5 percent over the next five years in the 38126 zip code.

According to the Memphis poverty fact sheet, the childhood poverty rate in 38126 is 68.4 percent. The 38126 ZIP code, which houses approximately 8,000 citizens, is the poorest in the city, with a poverty rate of 60.9 percent. Vision 2020 has directed $3.3 million into the area over the last two years.   

Made to Play specifically falls under goal four of Vision 2020: to “develop positive outcomes in youth that include competence, confidence, connection and character.”

WFGM Philanthropy and Young Women’s Initiative Coordinator Brittany Tuggle amplified on the reasoning for the program.

“During the summer, kids are not as active and we want to make sure that we keep them healthy, keep them involved and keep them active,” said Tuggle. “We know that physical activity leads to better leadership and better communication.”

This summer was the first year for the program, which was funded by the Nike Community Impact Fund and made possible through a partnership between the Booker T. Washington High (BTW) School Lady Warriors basketball team and WFGM.

Two recent BTW graduates worked as interns and were paired with students at LaRose, which is located at 864 Willoughby St. They worked with the kids, taught them specific skills and planned weekly activities. Interns received community service hours and a stipend for their service.

The number of students served at LaRose varied, which gave students the opportunity to have more one-on-one time.

Intern Derrinesha Jackson, who will be attending Walters State Community College in the fall, hopes that kids learned more than just how to play sports during their time together.   

“They might not want to be an athlete when they grow older. They might want to do something else,” said Jackson. “I hope they do whatever their passion and desires lead them to.”

Jackson, who played basketball during high school, taught the kids sports such as soccer and helped lead exercises.

“It’s been great being able to pass my talent and knowledge on down to someone else. Right now they’re in elementary, so when they get to middle and high school and get exposed to more sports, they can pick out which sports they love,” said Jackson.

“We had to bond with the kids quickly, get to know them and let them know that we care. We’re here and you’re able to talk to us and communicate.”

Intern Hermeisha Perkins, who will be attending the University of Memphis in the fall, offered her knowledge of sports to the kids. Perkins played volleyball, basketball and softball and was a cheerleader in high school.

“The experience has been wonderful. I look at them like they’re my little brothers and sisters. I hope that they learn that they can do anything. If you’re not the best, you can work to be the best,” said Perkins.

“Different people can win on different days, so don’t give up just because you didn’t win one day.”

The students participated in relay races. And while it got competitive, Perkins said they still had good attitudes.

“I like good attitudes and sportsmanship,” said Perkins.  “I like to see them strive to be the best.”

(The TSD’s MLK50 coverage is ongoing through April 2019. The focus is on raising the profile of poverty, putting faces to conditions and chronicling the transformative efforts of individuals and groups.)

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