Make that Connector of the Year! Up2Us is a national movement that is based on one very powerful word: connections.
Far too many children drop out of school because they do not feel connected to their teachers or to other classmates. Far too many boys join gangs because they do not feel connected to society. Far too many girls find themselves as teenage mothers because they do not feel connected to adult role models.
Up2Us uses the unique power of sports to create connections. Life affirming connections between kids and their coaches, kids and their teammates, and kids and the wider community.
Key to making these connections possible are our coaches who work everyday to give our youth this sense of belonging. Properly trained coaches provide children the unique opportunity to develop their life skills in a nontraditional setting. For many kids in urban America who are isolated because of poverty, broken families and underserved communities, this coach may be the most critical connection of them all.
Tonight is the first ever Up2Us gala. It will be attended by celebrities, athletes, coaches and other stakeholders from across the country who believe in the Up2Us mission. Every guest in attendance has one thing in common: they achieved their success in life because of some connection that meant something to them and inspired them to be great. That's why the focus of this gala is to celebrate three special connectors, the Up2Us Coaches of the Year.
These Coach Across America coaches were chosen by kids and colleagues from their communities because of their impact on health, violence and academics. Coach Ebonee from Los Angeles uses sports to connect at-risk kids to a lifelong love of exercise and physical activity. Coach Michel from Chicago uses sports to connect gang members to positive peer groups who help them say to no violence. Coach Payne from Boston uses sports to connect at-risk students in failing public schools to a renewed commitment to their education.
I have often written that Up2Us is the solution to the challenges of juvenile violence, school dropout rates, and childhood obesity. Up2Us is the solution because it is about the kinds of connections demonstrated by these amazing coaches. They deserve to be celebrated at a gala in New York with legendary figures like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wynton Marsalis, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in attendance.
They are the Connectors of the Year.
Paul Caccamo Executive Director