Shooting hoops to learn values

March 25, 2008 4:05:59 PM PDT
You may think basketball is just a fun, competitive sport. But one local program uses the game to teach at-risk kids some critical skills. It's called Urban Dove, and it's been in New York City public schools for a decade. Now, it's being offered to a whole new set of kids.

Eyewitness News reporter Lauren Glassberg has more.

This is a set of kids with a whole set of complicated challenges. They have been convicted of crimes, misdemeanors and felonies, and they're now in custody. But shooting hoops maybe a way to get them to refocus their game.

We can't identify them, because they're all minors and residents of Horizons, a juvenile detention center in the Bronx. But basketball, as it is for many teens, is one of their favorite activities.

The session on the court is run by the Urban Dove Foundation. For two years, it's been teaching kids at detention centers the same lessons it teaches at-risk students in the city's public schools. They are lessons that foster self-esteem and leadership.

"This is our population too," Urban Dove's Jai Nanda said. "All of the kids we work with on the outside, we work with them to make sure they don't end up here. So it's a natural fit for us."

Of course, the ones who have ended up there often face domestic problems, homelessness, even mental health issues. The challenges are that much greater, but sports gets their attention. And their demeanor changes.

"There are some kids here that are troublesome, and they're participating here and you could never tell they're problematic," New York City Juvenile Justice Programs Director Sonia Galarza said.

"Before I got here, I didn't get along with these kids," one player, "John," said. "But since I've seen them playing basketball, I've really got a love for them."

And with certain activities they're almost forced to get along.

"I can use some of the things I use here for my everyday life," another player, "Mike" said.

Their teamwork will be tested at an upcoming tournament involving the other detention centers. The best team gets to keep a trophy. It's something for them to aim for.

And for kids who've already been locked up, the goal gives a sense of purpose. And hopefully, through Urban Dove, those goals go beyond the hoop.

"What we want to do is make sure they learn something with us, and that they never come back," Galarza said. "That's our goal."

And the detention center tournament is this weekend. Meanwhile, the founder of Urban Dove hopes that when the kids leave the detention centers, they continue with Urban Dove programs when they're back in school.

For more on Urban Dove, click here.