Filed Under:  Local, News, Sports

Elevate New Orleans sets out to raise the game of youth

1st July 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Kelly Parker
Contributing Writer

The days of sports camps focusing solely on athletic development have proven to be behind us.

Here at home, ELEVATE New Orleans provides an enrichment program for select 7th- through 12th-grade student-athletes, through its Elevate Leadership Program provides in a daily mix of athletic, academic and social development activities on an individual and small group basis. The goal for each (ELP) student-athlete is matriculation at a high-performing four-year university. Since 2008, the program has sent 100 percent of alumni to college on partial or full scholarships, helping local youth further their skills on the basketball court, as well as the classroom.

ELEVATE-participants-070113Elevate is the brainchild of former University of Connecticut basketball point guard Sky Hya­cinthe, who was inspired after spending time with a group of young athletes in the Ninth Ward, while visiting college teammate Emeka Okafor, former New Orleans Hornets standout.

“When I went there I saw kids that needed help with basketball skills, but what I saw was a need for structure, discipline, academic guidance, role models, and foundation to be successful in life, “ Hyacinthe says. “After two weeks of working with these kids and seeing their improvements on the court and in their interactions with me, I knew this was my chance to make that difference I always thought about and I decided to stay. I told (Okafor), ‘This is what I should be doing.’ He looked at the idea, came to visit the kids, and decided to help make the vision a reality.”

Along with Okafor, ELEVATE has partnered with Wal-Mart, Chevron, Ben Gordon of the Charlotte Bobcats and Loyola University, just to name a few.

“Elevate New Orleans is an exceedingly important program because it focuses on the development of the whole person – as a student, as an athlete, as a contributing community member,” says Kelly Brotzman, Director of Service Learning at Loyola University. “In this way, its mission is a perfect fit for Loyola, which emphasizes the education and formation of college students as whole people – head, heart and hands, as we like to say. Loyola has partnered with Elevate since 2010, and the partnership has grown from one in which Loyola provided volunteer tutors to Elevate’s academic program to one in which our service programs, athletic program, work study program, our library, our honors students, and our on-campus literacy center are all involved in making ongoing contributions to Elevate. I work with a whole lot of nonprofits and youth development programs all over New Orleans, and I don’t know of a program quite like it. It occupies a unique niche because it addresses a unique combination of needs.”

ELEVATE recognizes the importance of expanding life skills and opportunities to the whole family. As a result, the organization provides a number of community programs to engage youth of all ages. Elevate provides these life skills to youth through various programs; allowing student athletes to work one on one with former NCAA stars, receive mentorship from successful college graduates and professionals, daily tutoring provided by Loyola university students, healthy lifestyle workshops, Sunday basketball workshops and much more.

Nick Guidry was introduced to the program while a student at Holy Cross high school and has been involved with the program ever since. The program appealed to Guidry, now a student at Dillard University, because of the variety of tools it provided for self-development.

“When I got introduced to the program, I automatically fell in love with it, because not only was it giving me the chance to improve my basketball skills, but also helping me as a student,” Guidry says. “It gave me that edge over other athletes; I was able to get better tutoring and get help to prepare for my ACT,” he said.

The 19 year-old currently works at all of the volunteer camps, helping train the high school and middle school participants, providing the same type of guidance and mentorship he received.

“That common bond was there at ELEVATE with the presence of former athletes,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “It was like I had another brother or sister to discuss life situations with.”

If a child is entering the 7th, 8, or 9 grade and would like to have the opportunity of becoming an Elevate student-athlete, sign up on the website: www.elevate­usa.org to participate in the Open Run; which takes place Monday, July 29 at 1027 Napoleon Ave. The (Boys Run) is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the girls take the court from 7:15 to 8:45 p.m. Enrolled student athletes receive ACT/SAT preparation, life skills workshops, basketball skill development by elite trainers and college application and scholarship assistance and much more. All activities are free of charge.

Also, the ELEVATE NEXT basketball camp has sessions taking place July 29 to August 1, and August 5-8. The camp includes daily prizes and competitions, special guests from the 2004 Men’s National Champion Univ­ersity of Connecticut Hus­kies, sessions with highly regarded basketball coaches and more. Preregistration for a single session is $175 ($190.00 at the door) and $300 for both sessions. Space is limited to 50 participants per session. Preregistration can be done via the Elevate website.

Hyacinthe believes pushing student athletes to reach their highest potential is the best game plan; the most talented individuals on the basketball court must be expected to achieve in the classroom, without preferential treatment.

“I was a former student athlete, and I saw the way we were treated growing up with academics not being a focus in our development,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “I knew teachers and administrators just passing athletes along just to make sure that they can stay on the team. I saw coaches going to lobby to teachers for additional grades to get a star athlete eligible. That only sets up the athlete for failure in the future. It doesn’t teach work ethic, accountability, or the sense of responsibility for ones work in the classroom; in actuality, the classroom matters much more than anything you can do in sports. A fraction of individuals have the luxury of calling themselves a professional athlete. The rest have to figure something out to do with our lives. I wanted to do something about this travesty that goes on in our society especially in our inner-city schools.”

And in keeping with the motto—Developing Winners for Life—ELP student athletes must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

For more information on ELEVATE and its summer programs, contact (504) 914-2325, or visit www.elevateusa.org.

This article originally published in the July 1, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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