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LOWELL - Leaders of the National Youth Sports Program - which affects 1,200 children in Massachusetts - are fighting the program's elimination from the federal budget.
"There is still a slim chance left to save a national youth program that affects over 1,200 children in the state of Massachusetts, 350 here at the University of Massachusetts Lowell," said Dana Skinner, UMass Lowell athletics director and a member of the program's board of directors.
"Parents, schools, and neighborhoods have depended on this program for the past 37 years. It is disturbing that all of a sudden there has been a change of heart," he said.
The National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) - which has provided sports, life skills and educational programming to children from low-income families since 1969 - has been eliminated from the FY06 budget bill. However, funding for the $18 million program could be reinstated by the Senate. Skinner and other NYSP officials have been meeting with legislators and others in an effort to save the program.
Currently, in Massachusetts, NYSP is hosted at American International College, the University of Massachusetts Boston and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, as well as UMass Lowell.
Skinner noted that, despite its "sports" name, NYSP has a broad mission. Youth, ages 10 to 16, benefit from education and enrichment programs, medical examinations and follow-up of pre-existing conditions prior to participating in the five-week summer program. NYSP participants enjoy two healthy, USDA-approved meals daily, clothing, required swimming lessons, a math/science discovery program, drug and alcohol education, crew instruction, and a nurturing and disciplined environment.
Lowell's NYSP - recognized as one of the top programs in the country for the past 12 years - is one of 210 NYSP programs nationwide. This summer more than 75,000 youth will participate across the country.
Rochelle Taylor, president of the National Youth Sports Corp., said the loss of funding will have a serious impact on the lives of young people who are helped and supported by this program.
"Sports are our way into helping their lives. It allows us to provide the meals, drug counseling, and exposure to the college campus which inspires so many to avoid trouble and to work harder to do well in school," she said.
The Senate could address the funding after the August congressional recess period.
"Senators must be made aware how crucial this program is to the well being of so many underserved young people," Skinner said. "It will cost society much more to remove the safety netting that the National Youth Sports Program provides."
The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. UML offers its 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management; the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education. Visit our website at www.uml.edu.