The South Side High School athletic director hopes a $20,000 grant can turn visions of youth camps for elementary and middle school students into a reality.
With the Fort Wayne Community Schools board's blessing, Torrey Curry is drafting an application for the Reimagining School Sports in America grant offered through the Aspen Institute's Project Play.
Eight winners representing various school types, including a large urban public high school, will each receive $20,000.
The competitive, nationwide grant would provide startup capital to hold youth camps for elementary and middle school students attending South Side feeder schools, according to information provided to the board Monday.
South Side would like to launch camps this summer if funding comes through, Curry told the board.
“It's important to get [students] involved,” Curry said. “We all know that the more they're involved with their schools, the more focus they can have academically, the more support they can have long-term and just the more opportunities.”
The Aspen Institute cites research showing the overall student participation rate in sports is 39%, and participation is even lower in urban schools – 32% – and high-poverty schools – 27%.
South Side's participation rate is on par with the national average for low-income schools, Curry said. He noted the school has a “great history” in girls basketball, but this year the school couldn't fill out the roster for a junior varsity team.
“I don't want to settle for status quo,” Curry said. “I want to start our kids out earlier.”
As much as Curry would like youth camp participants to ultimately attend South Side, he accepts some might enroll in other FWCS high schools.
“We've prepared them, and we have helped impact the other four [high schools],” Curry said.
Students could attend the youth camps at minimal or no cost to them, Curry said.
He understands financial barriers often limit opportunities. This has been exemplified during the pandemic, he said.
About 73% of South Side's students are characterized as economically disadvantaged, according to state data.
“The students whose families could afford the extra training on their own was easily seen,” Curry said. “And then the students who couldn't – we're playing catch-up.”