Project Coach and Smith Organize to Help Youth
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 19:04
Project Coach, a Springfield organization that uses sports to engage with at-risk youth, will host a College Prep Day on Saturday. In the new event, undergraduate mentors and other volunteers will help Springfield high school students prepare for the college application process.
Project Coach uses sports as a means to teach, connect and engage students with their studies. High school students volunteer as coaches, while middle school and elementary school students learn teamwork and leadership through a particular sport. Project Coach also uses volunteers from the surrounding area as administrators.
Now Project Coach is expanding its horizons, offering a College Prep Day on Saturday. The College Prep Day is meant to teach basic college application skills, such as essay writing, to high school students involved in the program. Though its regular tutoring already prepares students for college in a general sense, this initiative will specifically target academic areas in which students need additional support.
Project Coach has a long relationship with Smith College, which has provided administrative faculty and graduate research, support and involvement.
“Each year, the college offers seven tuition-free Masters through the ESS or MAT [Master of Arts in Teaching] programs at Smith. So each year, PC has seven highly qualified and motivated graduate students that work long hours for the program,” said Greg Rosnick, assistant director and academic coordinator at Project Coach.
Finding tutoring and administrative volunteers was a major hurdle in establishing the organization.
Project Coach was founded in part as a response to unequal athletic facility conditions in Springfield. While suburban students were using state-of-the-art fields and gyms in the city, Springfield city residents have been unable to access the same facilities.
Project Coach founders knew that finding volunteer coaches was necessary to get students involved with Springfield sports. However, with the lack of responsible and willing adults, the prospects of success for the project seemed bleak.
“The problem wasn’t in the lack of interest from the youth,” Rosnick said. “It quickly became clear to [the Project Coach founders] that they could utilize highly motivated and charismatic high school students as the coaches.” When students began signing up as coaches, the program took off.
Project Coach has quantifiable results: the program improves participants’ GPAs by an average of 1.1 points, helps create student leaders among Springfield youth and forges bonds between students. Many students report that their participation has led them to express more self-confidence and faith in themselves in school and in their communities.
The leaders have said that they find themselves appreciating what they have learned from Project Coach.
“For me personally… I think that the most eye-opening thing has been witnessing the great things that high school students can do when they are placed in authentic positions of authority,” Rosnick said. “They take their position as a mentor and coach to these elementary school students very seriously … It makes you reconsider society’s general view towards teenagers as the proverbial menace to society.”
Rosnick urges Smith students to approach and become involved with Project Coach.
“Project Coach doesn’t have ‘the answer,’” he said. “We’re constantly evolving and looking for assistance, and we always welcome all the help that we can get.”
To find out more about volunteering for Project Coach, contact Rosnick at email@example.com, or e-mail Michele Lee ’12 at firstname.lastname@example.org.