Youth Impact Program For At-Risk Youth Starts at USC

July 7, 2008

Riki Ellison, a three-time Super Bowl Champion and a 10-year veteran of the NFL, announced today that his alma mater USC will be home once again to the 'Youth Impact Program' (YIP), a program designed to put disadvantaged innercity youth into a university setting for the summer.

Boys aged 9 to 12 will be enrolled in a rigorous program focusing on academics, life skills and athletics. This is the third year that the Youth Impact Program will take place at USC in Los Angeles.

The program, founded by ki Ellison in 2005, was created with USC's Joint Education Program (JEP) and is supported by the National Football League Youth Football Fund and Los Angeles Technical College. It begins on July 7 and will last through August 1, with a year-round follow-up program to be instituted in selected L.A. Unified School District middle schools. Overseen by JEP, the program unites L.A. Unified School District teachers with USC students to create the program's unique academic and life skills curriculum.

Congresswoman Diane Watson (Dem.) of the 33rd California District was on the USC campus on May 30 for the 2008 YIP organizational meeting, and she pledged her support and applauded the success of the Youth Impact Program.

Ellison said that more than 200 at-risk males will attend the program this summer at USC. Participants were selected from the local Central and South Central Los Angeles elementary schools. Physicals are provided for the participants as well as daily meals at USC's cafeterias.

'This is a life changing experience for these young men,' said Ellison. 'They engage in a university experience with a unique curriculum in reading and math that motivates them to learn and to realize a future beyond the streets and innercity life.'

The life skills portion of the program focuses on team building, conflict resolution, anger management, nutrition and sex education. The football aspect of the program is one of the primary motivators for the boys to participate. The NFL Youth Football Fund provided all of the equipment that supports the afternoon football sessions of the YIP. The NFL Youth Football Fund is a non-profit foundation created by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to support youth and high school football initiatives nationwide and help ensure the health of grassroots football for future generations.

'This experience reinforces the student athlete concept, as the university environment propels these young boys into looking at school in a different way,' said Ellison.

Watson provided her insight on the importance of the YIP's educational dimension.

'I am proud of USC, the NFL, the NFL Players Association and Riki Ellison for their outreach into our community,' she said. 'I plan to share this model with other innercity communities that have a university and local school systems to partner with the Youth Impact Program by telling my colleagues in Congress about theprogram.'

Watson holds a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in school psychology. Her lifetime commitment to education stems from her involvement in the Los Angeles public schools, where she worked as an elementary school teacher and school psychologist. She was also the first African-American woman to be elected to the L.A. Unified School District Board of Education.

Denise Woods, the YIP program director and former basketball player at USC, stated that in its third year YIP has been a successful program facilitated by USC, the NFL and the surrounding communities.

'We strive to balance the athletic and the educational objectives of the camp, and we are appreciative of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's support of the program,' said Woods. 'We are proud of USC alumnus Riki Ellison for his leadership and love of our kids in the program.'

Reggie Grant, Deputy Director of the YIP and a former NFL player and currently a teacher in the LA Unified School District, will be responsible for the football aspect of YIP this year.

'This is a great experience for our youth in the district,' Grant said. 'My staff and I are models for them to see that excelling in education and athletics is an excellent way to get on the path to success in life. We show them that studies are just as important as athletics. We love this program, and we are indeed appreciative for this blessing that USC and its staff, the NFL, the NFL Players Association and Riki Ellison provide to our community at large.'

All transportation, meals, classes and activities are provided free for the selected disadvantaged boys throughout the program's four-week duration, extending into the year-round follow-up program.

Besides Watson and Goodell, USC athletic director Mike Garrett and Trojan head football coach Pete Carroll are great supporters of the program. Both Garrett and Carroll make it a point each year to visit and engage with the at-risk young men during the camp.

'I am a big believer in providing opportunities for our nation's at-risk youth to excel in sports and academics,' said Ellison. 'Our Youth Impact Program at USC is one of the best programs I know of to give our innercity youth hope and a model to succeed. I am so proud of USC and the NFL Youth Football Fund for their continued support of the Youth Impact Program.'

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