July 12, 2005

Youth sports camp focuses on building character

by Pete Rosenbery

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Like many youngsters his age, 10-year-old Pierre McCauley of Carbondale dreams of becoming a professional athlete.

More importantly, though, Pierre, who enters fifth grade at Lewis School in Carbondale next month, also hopes to become an architect or video game designer. And while a part of Pierre's summer is spent on swimming, football and basketball at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's National Youth Sports Program, he and more than 200 other youths are also receiving important lessons on character, leadership and citizenship.


Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend the camp and meet with instructors and participating campers. For more information, contact Saluki Kids Academy Director John C. Davis at 618/453-6468.


Saluki Kids' Academy, one of the University's popular summer outreach programs, received a $50,000 grant this spring for the day camp for economically disadvantaged youths, ages 10 to 16. The five-week day camp started June 27 and runs through July 29. A total of 260 kids from Cairo, Carbondale, Marion, Murphysboro and Sparta are participating in the program, with an average of about 164 youths participating daily, said sports program Director Josh Cross.

Children engage in a wide range of activities, including basketball, swimming, football, soccer, tennis, dance, physical fitness and aerobics. There are also discussions on alcohol and drug prevention. SIUC men's basketball coach Chris Lowery opened the camp by stressing the importance of academics, and several Saluki football and basketball players visited with campers.

Cross already sees changes in attitudes and in how the children interact with each other after just a few days. "It's about teaching them character; good morals that they can carry back to their own towns," said Cross, who is also director of the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club.

Pierre's mother, Ingrid Underwood, says the camp is a reward for her son's good behavior and scholastic efforts. Pierre, who speaks French, made the honor roll each quarter. She emphasizes to her son that academics come first.

"Academics count," she said. "If your academics are good and you are good in sports, you can choose where you want to go – the sky's the limit. If your academics aren't good, you are limited."

Cross, a former Carbondale Community High School and Saluki basketball standout, credits the 20 volunteers or "project aides" who are helping him daily. The program is exceeding initial expectations, he said.

"Now that it is here, the work we put in back in February and April is well worth it," he said. "The kids are having fun and that is the most important thing."

Saluki Kids' Academy Director John C. Davis said the program is important because it allows the University to partner with several social service agencies. Agencies participating this summer include the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, Sparta School District, University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service in Murphysboro, Community Health and Emergency Services, Inc. in Cairo, Attucks Community Services in Carbondale, Marion Partnership for Youth, Murphysboro Youth and Recreation Center, and Southern Illinois Healthcare.

"What we attempt to do with the Saluki Kids' Academy initiatives is to not only serve the community, but teach and do research," Davis said. The program offers graduate students the chance to participate in a teaching laboratory, he said.

The program is "positive and uplifting," said Juan L. Maultsby, a graduate student in Workforce Education.

"Seeing smiles on the faces of kids as they meet new friends and are excited about the activities makes everything worthwhile," he said.

This is the first year SIUC is participating in the federally funded program, which is also supported by the NCAA. More than 200 universities and college are participating this summer.

SIUC is one of seven universities and colleges participating in Illinois; Chicago State University, along with Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Olive-Harvey College, all in Chicago; Rock Valley College in Rockford; and Quincy University are also holding programs.

Saluki Kids' Academy is an outreach program founded three years ago by the College of Education and Humans Services. The academy uses University resources to provide academic, recreational and enrichment experiences for Southern Illinois children who have not otherwise had access to those opportunities.

Serving others and being involved in community outreach programs are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

(Caption: Staying in shape – Ten-year-old Pierre McCauley of Carbondale (right) works on his jumping jacks at the National Youth Sports Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale under the direction of program director Josh Cross. Pierre is one of more than 200 children between the ages of 10 and 16 from throughout Southern Illinois participating in the five-week day camp. Youths are receiving lessons on character, leadership and citizenship in addition to sports activities that include swimming, football, basketball, tennis, dance and physical fitness).

(Photo by Steve Buhman)