Lacrosse the Nations: The Power to Make Positive Change

by Caroline Kirkendoll

What was your favorite class in elementary school (not counting recess)?

Before boyfriends and girlfriends, college essays and SAT scores, varsity letters and locker room gossip, when everyone walked to and from places in lines and traded Capri Suns for Gushers, there was elementary school – and it ruled.

I like to think that there are many, like me, who saw elementary school PE class as the greatest 60 minutes of any given day. For the fanatics, PE was like the gateway drug to the wider world of sports, the epic try-out for a team you didn’t even know you were trying out for. In PE, students gain an appreciation for their athletic strengths and weaknesses, all while sampling a variety of different sports (still can’t believe Sharks and Minnows isn’t recognized by the NCAA…).

Aside from being fun, PE class actually has the potential to be rather life-changing. Lacrosse the Nations operates under the belief that sports, and lacrosse especially, have the power to make positive change. Changes in individuals, and also changes in communities. Sports have the unique ability to provide self-confidence and bring people together; they help children realize potential and encourage teamwork and camaraderie.

It is often the intangibles garnered from experience with sports and other extracurriculars that prove to be the most valuable to people later in life. Important skills necessary in the professional world, such as competitiveness, passion, the ability to work well with others — all are acquired and developed outside the classroom, be it on the field, in the studio, or on stage.

Sadly, there are no extra-curricular activities for elementary school students in Potrero. Aside from after-school English classes with Abriendo Mentes, Lacrosse the Nations provides the only organized programming for children outside of school hours. A normal day for them consists of between 3 and 4 hours of classes, an average of 3 days per week. The amount of free-time they have is extraordinary, especially when you consider that there is absolutely nothing left to fill their days. No sports, no clubs, no malls or local hangouts – just an empty soccer field, with no soccer ball.

Our efforts with Abriendo Mentes to bridge this huge gap and attempt to fill in some of the idle time with positive activities, such as lacrosse practice, have been well-met so far. But the truth remains that there is still more we can do, and what better to supplement AM and LtN’s current curriculum than a PE class?

Through these classes we stress the importance of learning and good behavior, exercise and nutrition, all while strengthening important life skills. More than anything, we want the children of Potrero to have the chance to play, grow, learn and thrive as individuals and express themselves in ways they’ve never been able to before; we want to engage and encourage them in fun, unique ways.

We’re also able to supplement the school’s nutrition program with money specifically set aside for buying fruit and other healthful food. Expanded program hours will allow visiting groups of volunteers the opportunity to give back to the Potrero community and the school through a variety of service projects, and open our students’ minds to new people and experiences.

We see these classes as a huge opportunity for both LtN and the community. Partnering directly with the school allows us access to a larger percentage of the youth population, and also increases our communication with parents and other leaders within the community. As we become more involved with the school, we also become more sensitive to their needs and can help tailor volunteer service projects and other fundraising campaigns towards real problems, and help resolve the issues that are of most concern.

Now more than ever we are poised to make a very meaningful impact in our small community. With multiple hours of programming throughout the week and our developing partnership with the school, LtN is on the road to becoming a much more important and valued member of our small town.

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