Annapolis community leaders found a new way to connect with Anne Arundel County youth with the Annapolis Arts, Sports and Leadership Academy (AASaLA), created by Darius Stanton to teach children leadership skills and a hard work ethic.
“The goal of the Academy is to reach out to young people, teach them responsibility, leadership and how to be accountable for themselves so that they can be successful in all aspects of their life,” Stanton said.
The academy provides jerseys for the basketball team, audio training and voice lessons and partnered with Anne Arundel County Schools to provide snacks and food during the meetings where children play basketball then hear from a community leader.
When children attend an AASaLA meeting they first play basketball, take voice lessons or learn how to create music.Then have a snack or dinner provided to them by AASaLA and Anne Arundel County Schools. The final component of the day is a speech given by a successful member of the community on how to develop good leadership skills and self worth.
Annapolis resident Liz Hale discovered the program through Rolling Knolls Elementary School and immediately enrolled her daughter Madison Hale, 10.
“This program will have a positive impact on individuals and bring out their strengths to make them feel important and loved,” said Hale whose daughter’s favorite part is learning from national recording artist Charis Jones. “She looks forward to singing the National Anthem for the Mayor of Annapolis at one of the games being played.”
The Academy has 75 children enrolled, a number which Stanton credits to the partners and 36 volunteers of the Academy. Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center is the largest partner of the Academy, helping finance the startup of the program. Linda Boyd, vice chair of the Bates center hopes this will offer a new way to reach and inspire youth through the example of Wiley H. Bates.
Bates grew up in slavery, but became a self-made businessman and served on the Annapolis City Council. He donated money to found the first African-American High School in the county.
The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center helped sponsor several children who could not afford the registration fee and allows the AASaLA to use the legacy center for some of their meetings
“We hope to inspire a sense of pride a sense through understanding the past and what it meant to gain that knowledge if Mr. Bates can be successful than so can I,” Boyd said.
The desire to uplift through community involvement is a goal exemplified by the partners and volunteers of AASaLA.
“The core aspects of the program are character development, education desire and leadership skills,” said D.C. Curtis, a retired Navy vice admiral who volunteers with the AASaLA.
Vince Leggett, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, says the program will help the whole community.
“I hope this opens doors and creates bridges between the mainstream Annapolis community and young people who live in subsidized housing communities,” Leggett said. “We’re trying to break the cycles of poverty by giving hope and inspiration.”
Michael Morris, director of recreation and parks for the City of Annapolis directed Stanton to the Roger “Pip” Moyer Community Recreation Center to use for the program.
The idea to start a youth based community service program that is based off the community uplifting itself runs in the family. Stanton’s father started the Annapolis Youth Athletic Association 27 years ago. It was was Annapolis’ first Summer Youth Basketball League, Stanton said.
“After seeing so many of the participants become successful and hearing from parents in today’s community ask for youth programs, I decided to create a place where children can go to learn life skills from committed people who care,” Stanton said.
Original members of this league, Errick Roberts, went on to receive a college scholarship for basketball and is now the AASaLA Project Manager.
“I joined because I know what its like to grow up in low income housing like so may of these young people, but through hard work and dedication I became successful,” Roberts said. “The idea of being accountable for oneself, respectful, and a good community member are all things that I learned in the Summer Youth Basketball League and am now passing on to the youth involved in the AASaLA.”
Like Roberts, Stanton hopes children involved in the AASaLA will be positively impacted by speakers who range from government officials, business owners, and veterans.
“My partners and myself decided to use basketball as a hook, but recognized a lot of children don’t play sports so we expanded the program to discuss leadership skills, hoping they would take ownership of their lives,” Stanton said. “We want them to go after eductions and ultimately their dreams because they know we care about, believe in and support them.”
The success of the AASaLA has prompted Stanton and volunteers to want to expand the program next year by offering soccer, sailing and science classes. They also plan to track students’ academic performance.
There is a $50 registration fee to attend the academy, with a break for families with multiple children. Scholarships are available.
Meetings are held twice a week during Summer at the Roger “Pip” Moyer Center on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The program is divided into ages 10 to 12 and ages 13 to 14.
To volunteer or donate to the program visit http://menaiminghigher.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information and a full list of sponsors can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MenAimingHigherInc.