President Obama announced a bold new initiative to re-inspire the war against poverty in this country called Promise Zones. These zones will target resources to some of the most underserved areas in the nation. But what exactly is our promise to the youth in these communities?
I'd like to promise them a coach who can guide them through the challenges they face and who can point them to toward a successful future despite the obstacles posed by poverty.
After all, we know that most adults who succeed in this country are able to point to role models who helped them make the decisions in childhood and adolescence that resulted in their future success.
Children in Promise Zones should be the focus of the Promise Zones. And they should each have access to the same adult "guides" that kids in every affluent community often take for granted.
The best and most affordable way to do this is to promise each child a trained Coach Across America coach in partnership with local sports-based youth development programs.
By delivering these youth safe after school sports activities that appeal to boys, girls and children of different abilities, we introduce these youth to adult role models, their coaches, who can help them envision a life beyond poverty. By providing them positive peer groups through sports, we provide them insulation from the violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancy that is pervasive in their neighborhoods. And by giving them the joy of physical activity, we build their bodies and their brains. Numerous studies are demonstrating that kids who are physically active do better in school, overcome stress more easily, and develop social skills that help them make better decisions in life. What's more, we can even create jobs in Promise Zones by hiring and training the young adults in these neighborhoods to be the change agents I just described. After all, young adults from these communities with a passion for coaching make the best role models and their participation can lead to a more sustainable impact.
President Obama made a promise to create Promise Zones to end poverty.
I encourage him to make a further promise to the kids in those communities—a promise to provide them a coach so that the hope and potential of this effort is immediately visible in the parks, schools, fields, and playgrounds throughout these zones. That defines the kind of community change that is at the root of ending poverty once and for all….
Paul Caccamo Founder & Executive Director