Earning a place on a varsity sports team requires skill, time and work. Often that hard work is rewarded with a letterman jacket which is traditionally worn by high school students to represent team pride as well as to display personal achievement.
Well, more than 40 Howard W. Blake High students are sporting a different jacket these days – one that requires double dedication. They’re called Athletic Achievers, a pilot group of Y Teen Achievers – a career and college readiness program supporting more than 1,000 academically, socially and/or financially at-risk middle and high school students to help them raise their academic standards, build character and explore diverse college and career options.
After brainstorming with Blake Principal Jesse Salters and Assistant Principal for Administration Dr. David Williams, Y Teen Achievers Director Wayne Johnson approached the Tampa Y and said, “There’s a need at Blake High. There’s a void and I think we have the capacity to fill it.” What Wayne is referring to is the staggering amount of prospective student athletes who do not meet the mandated grade point average of 2.0 at Blake.
In the new Athletic Achievers program, student athletes meet exclusively and consistently with Y staff for one-on-one focused tutoring sessions. The goal is to pass standardized testing and graduate from high school successfully. Wayne says the program saw a 90 percent attendance rate over the first five months.
During last month’s letterman jacket ceremony, Dr. David Williams said, “I’m thankful the YMCA took the vision in their hands and drove it down the road with me in the back seat. We started out with 25 students, now we’re at 40.” The ceremony also recognized dedicated Y and school staff, including Curriculum Chair Asha Bala for her exemplary work with the teens.
Before passing out the well-deserved letterman jackets to the inaugural group of Athletic Achievers, Dr. Williams said, “Once you all start wearing these jackets, other students are going to wonder how you got it. Not by playing sports but by being a student first – a person willing to go that extra mile to make their grades better and even consider college.” Wayne agreed saying, “Wear your jacket with pride. Wear it with honor but, most importantly, remember your family name is on there too. Wherever you go, you carry your family’s name with that.”
If you’re interested in learning more and helping make Athletic Achievers a staple part of the Teen Achievers program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured above: Last month, 40 Athletic Achievers received letterman jackets for excelling in academics and athletics.