High Ground News, January 22, 2016
By Emily Adams Keplinger
From organized sports to literacy tutoring, Memphis Athletic Ministries is making after-school time count for youth in neighborhoods across the city.
Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM) is a home-grown nonprofit organization that provides access to year-round, quality mentoring programs to at-risk youth, ages 8 to 18. Serving over 750 youth daily through eight neighborhood centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods, MAM programs are offered in partnership with families, schools and other community organizations and use organized sports to attract youth participation.
MAM programs include after-school recreation and organized sports, as well as programs targeting academic enrichment and career readiness. The goal is to give youth the means to learn personal responsibility and guide them to become employable, prepared individuals for success in the workforce. The result is a long-term positive impact on the youth and their families, and ultimately their neighborhoods and our city.
“The Harvard Family Research Project (HRFP) concluded that ‘well implemented [after school] programs can have a positive impact on a range of academic, social, prevention, and other outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children and youth’ provided there is ‘sustained participation in well-structured and well-implemented after school programs and activities,’” explained Anne Chambers, Communications Director for Memphis Athletic Ministries. “A variety of studies have also shown that sports alone can have significant benefits to disadvantaged youth such as appreciation of fitness, increased sense of belonging, increased moral development and positive academic outcomes.”
“MAM takes several unique approaches to reaching our goal. Beginning this month, Literacy Mid-South is implementing a pilot reading literacy program for elementary youth at the MAM Leawood Center in the 38122 zip code,” said Chambers. “Literacy Mid-South will train our education staff on best practices for teaching reading comprehension and vocabulary skills, provide reading assessments, and help offset program costs. We hope to expand to all of our centers by September 2016.”
Chambers continued, “In 2015, through the Seeding Success Partnership (SSP), student information from the Shelby County School and Achievement School District systems is obtained and used for each boy and girl who is a MAM participant (with parental approval). With this information, we accurately track all areas of academic improvement including behavior, attendance and graduation rates for all MAM youth. Results of pre/post testing from Seeding Success beginning in school year 2015-16 will be valuable in helping us gauge our students’ progresses and the effectiveness of our Academic Diligence program.”
Statistics from Seeding Success show only 75 percent of the students attending Memphis public schools graduate from high school, and of those, that only 11 percent are college ready. MAM’s Career Readiness program provides an alternative to college for students who are not college-ready.
Initiated in 2015, the CR program has served 24 youth to date. Through training and actual work experience, the program offers youth an opportunity to earn money (a program stipend) as they work and attend training classes.
“Students develop general soft skills, such as time management, interpersonal skills and a strong work ethic, in workplace settings,” said Chambers. “The program also allows them to establish a work history, and helps them connect with potential employers. All of this helps the program participants gain a better understanding of different occupations so that they can make informed career choices.”
In a 2014 survey conducted by MAM, 94 percent of the surveyed youth said that MAM programs had made them a better person. If you are interested in learning more about Memphis Athletic Ministries or volunteering, visit Volunteer Memphis to see a list of all available opportunities.