YES (Youth Education and Sports) with Africa exemplifies the power of UMass Boston’s collaboration and engagement in the global community.
Modeled on Niamey Hoops, a basketball camp begun in 1997 in the Nigerian town of Niamey, the program gives youngsters ages 7 to 19 the opportunity to acquire basketball skills while learning about computers and technology, health issues, and their own cultural heritage. More than 1,500 young African boys and girls have been served through the program.
UMass Boston got involved in the program in 1999. During the summer of 2000, Charlie Titus, vice chancellor of athletics and recreation, special programs, and projects, joined the program as a coach, lecturer, instructor, and consultant.
“I can remember my first trip to Niger, Africa with my son, who was 12 years old at the time,” Titus says. “When he saw the Africans playing basketball with bare feet, it made such an impression that we went straight to the market to buy them sneakers.”
News spread quickly and the next day thousands of youths arrived wanting to be part of the camp.
From 200 Youth to 1,500
Over the past twelve years, YES with Africa has introduced basketball, better health, educational growth, and economic well being to youths in Niger, Senegal, and Benin. The program is made up of five components:
- Cultural arts sharing and building pride in creativity and heritage
- Health education seminars, including HIV/AIDS awareness
- Applied technological skills, focused on computers and the Internet
- Basketball coaches training and youth technique development
- Environmental awareness, including recycling and conservation
The basic strategy of YES is that African boys and girls agree to take classes on the above topics in the morning in exchange for the reward of playing sports and improving their athletic skills in the afternoon.
A “True Partnership”
Titus says the UMass Boston Athletics Department has a “true partnership” with Jemadari Kamara, chairman of the Africana Studies Department and founding director of the Center for African, Caribbean, and Community Development.
As Titus puts it, “Basketball is the hook. The meat is education, leadership, and social skills.”
“Kamara has been back and forth to Africa many times over the past 30 years,” Titus says. “We could not have pulled this off without him.”
As for the future, Titus has this vision of where the program can go: “The goal is to lay the foundation and do the groundwork to help African coaches become self-sustaining.”