Emmanuel College Hosts Smith Leadership Academy for Annual ‘Sports-lastic’
July 02, 2009
Howard Harrison, Emmanuel's Assistant Men's Basketball Coach, hosted his 4th annual "Sports-lastic" on June 10th, bringing students from the Smith Leadership Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester to the College's campus to enjoy a day of fun and inspirational activities. The idea behind the "Sports-lastic" stemmed from Harrison's coaching experience with the Saints, which inspired him to share a taste of the college environment with his middle school students.
After two years of hosting the event at Emmanuel, Harrison also teamed up with Damita Davis, Director of Multicultural Programs and Associate Director of Student Activities at Emmanuel, and Stephanie Moses, President of the College's Black Student Union (BSU), to establish a mentoring program between Emmanuel College students and Smith Leadership Academy students. The mentoring program, also known as Footsteps, was officially established in 2007 and only involved 8th grade students. The following year Smith Leadership Academy teachers Cheryl Belfry and Clifford Aziz joined the program and it was expanded to 7th grade students as well. The Emmanuel mentors bring Smith students to events such as bowling, ice skating and movie outings, as well as several athletic events that take place on campus.
"I think for Emmanuel students it's a way of giving back to the community. They come to realize that they are role models and they have a sense of responsibility to pave the way for those who'll follow them," said Davis. "For the Smith students, they get exposed to college life via students who come from where they come from and have similar life experience. For them, college becomes an attainable goal and a reality, opposed to just a dream."
Emmanuel College's Jean Yawkey Center for Community Leadership, which is supported by a generous grant from the Yawkey Foundation and is dedicated to providing programs for young people in Boston area schools, subsidizes funding for lunch for the visiting students participating in the Sports-lastic.
"Responding to the needs of urban youth is central to the mission of the Jean Yawkey Center for Community Leadership," said Patricia Rissmeyer, Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of the JYCCL. "We love the energy and enthusiasm the students bring to campus in the summer. It is a privilege to contribute to this program."
The Athletic Department also looks forward to welcoming the students to campus for the Sports-lastic each year.
"Emmanuel College has enjoyed hosting the Smith Leadership Academy for the past four years," said Emmanuel's Director of Athletics and Recreation Pamela Roecker. "It is our hope that the exposure to a college environment will continue to inspire and motivate these students to achieve both in and out of the classroom."
Harrison serves as the athletic director and physical education teacher at the Smith Leadership Academy. He and other faculty members participated along with the students in the day's activities, including tug of war, jump rope, face painting, dancing and the faculty and staff basketball game, a crowd favorite. The day not only encouraged bonding between students, but allowed for faculty and student bonding as well.
"I like the excitement and the fun the kids have when they are on the campus, the smiles that it brings to their faces," Harrison said. "I enjoy watching how experiencing a college campus makes them feel, and most of all, when they tell me they want to go to college and can't wait until they get there."
While the students look forward to visiting Emmanuel's facilities because of the activities, food and new surroundings, the event is also meant to motivate the students in their pursuits of higher education.
"The students like the events and competition that takes place and they especially love coming to Emmanuel for the food," Harrison joked. "But as long as they are considering and getting excited about college then mission accomplished."
Harrison also invited two guest speakers to address the students, Tito Jackson, Industry Director for Information Technology in Governor Deval Patrick's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in the Office of Business Development, and his father, Howard Harrison Sr., a published author and a crisis teacher in a Queens, NY high school.
Jackson was specifically requested as a speaker because of his ability to relate to the students, as a proud lifelong resident of the Dorchester neighborhood himself.
"Tito is someone who is a positive role model. He has come from the same area as these students and is very successful," said Harrison. "Tito is someone who has gone through the same struggles as they have. He is a positive person and I feel our kids need to see more of that in their lives."
Jackson is well known for his public speaking at schools, motivational seminars, and other community events where he addresses youth development issues, such as how to prepare young people to pursue careers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Education. He is currently in the race to become Boston City Councilor-at-Large.
Harrison Sr. returned to the Sports-lastic, as a guest speaker for the second-straight year. The school where he works deals with kids who have been dismissed from other schools, who have made mistakes and are getting a second chance at finishing school and bettering themselves. He is also the head basketball coach at Stevenson High School in the Bronx, NY.
"He is not just my father but a positive role model and someone who has been influential in my life," said Harrison. "He is the reason ‘I do what I do.' I thought both speakers can reach these kids because they know and have experienced some of the things these kids are going through."