Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blair High School Sports Academy Mentor Program

A collaboration involving MCFRS, Dept. of Recreation and the Task Force on Mentoring, has implemented a mentor Sports Academy program for students at Blair High School (BHS) in Silver Spring. The sports event kicking off the program is a flag football tournament. The County Council has been a strong supportive advocate for the Sports Academy and its work with under-achieving students.

Captain Tommy Foster is the lead for MCFRS in this very worthwhile endeavor and shares his experience, thus far, below:

I met with John Smith (Councilman Andrews Office), Joy Rafey (Task Force on Mentoring), and Daryl Gincherman (Task Force on Mentoring) for a brainstorming session on how we could make this happen. We all agreed that we needed to find a way to connect with the kids and felt strongly about utilizing sports as a way to make that connection.

John and Joy moved very quickly in setting up a meeting with BHS Principal Darryl Williams and Jose Segura from Sports Academy. A plan was devised, and the motions of the plan moved forward. The idea was to have a large flag football tournament, which would last approximately 6 days between the hours of 3pm-5pm.

I went back to senior leadership within my organization, and was given support by Fire Chief Richard Bowers towards moving forward with this collaboration.

Jose Segura from the Sports Academy recruited and organized 80 to 90 students for the event, which began this past Monday, November 16th. I brought a handful of firefighters and volunteers with me to participate in the games and began plugging them into different roles. Some of went in as quarterbacks, wide receivers, and defenders while others would help by refereeing the games. It felt great to see my fellow firefighters making an impact for the different teams. .

I was able to find several strong, diverse, young, and athletic role models in MCFRS to help out. Firefighters Tony Bencosme, Van Free, Seshibe Sefako, Ariel Dominguez, and Sean Carroll. Our approach was to have fun and mentor later. What I found on day four was openness from the students that allowed me to provide them information about ride alongs, career and volunteer opportunities, and an opportunity to come visit any of the mentors at their stations (to learn about life in a fire station) when the tournament was finished. I told the students they were not obligated to sign up for anything I had to offer but, to my amazement, they all signed up!

My goal is to provide these kids with valuable life lessons as they observe the discipline, focus, and accountability that their fire department mentors have demonstrated. They might also be inspired to volunteer their time and serve their community or attempt to make the fire and rescue service a career. These kids are hungry for opportunity, and are hungry for a vision to the possibilities that surround them!

This has been a wonderful and eye opening experience.

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