The benefits of participation in youth sports can be easy to see, but for one Palestine area organization the teamwork, sportsmanship and physical activity is all just a starting point.
Starting with only 13 kids in 2010, Jonathan Cary and Daniel Tatum founded Texas Youth Advocates with a goal much bigger than just playing basketball.
“The sports part is just the carrot,” Cary said. “It is a teaching mechanism, but the substance is in the other activities, the businesses we visit, the colleges we go to, the real-life application of experiences outside what they see every day.”
Cary knows from personal experience how getting to view the wider world can allow young minds to consider life’s possibilities on a grander scale.
“I went to Rice University and played football, but the football was just a vehicle to get my education,” he said. “It was the experiences outside of athletics that were the catalyst for this organization. The idea is giving kids the same opportunities and access to information as they would receive in a metropolitan area.”
Texas Youth Advocates currently sponsors youth basketball and volleyball teams, as well as Westwood Little Dribblers basketball for ages 5-14.
Team members are also required to participate in community service projects throughout the year including volunteering at Meals on Wheels of Palestine, Adopt-a-Street with the City of Palestine, lawn cleanup for elderly citizens and food drives for local organizations.
After seven years of growth, TYA is now working with more than 300 kids.
“People are starting to understand that what we are doing is different, and what is needed,” Cary said. “Kids may want to be pro athletes, but the odds are that going to college is what will lead to a better life outcome. It sounds cliché, but this is investing in our youth. It is like investing in infrastructure … a commitment to their future.”
You can find more information at texasyouthadvocate.org
Other recent grant recipients include:
God’s Helping Hands, Mabank: $5,000
Henderson County Interdenominational Alliance, Athens: $1,800
United Way of East and Central Texas, Palestine: $1,000
Henderson County Black History Committee, Athens: $2,000
Hidden Acres Camp, Kaufman: $3,000