Youngsters throughout the District of Columbia have spent much of the summer looking for ways to stay active. A number of programs exist, but many are out of the financial range of D.C. youths.
For the economically disadvantaged, the National Youth Sports Program, based at the University of the District of Columbia, has been a summer savior.
The NYSP offers instruction in bando karate, basketball, gymnastics, racquetball, tennis, swimming, weight training and dance. NYSP also offers daily counseling sessions on drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and suicide, as well as sessions on health, nutrition, careers and self image.
In addition, the program provides daily meals to the youngsters.
Gymnastics instructor Deborah Childs said her sport is a very expensive one for beginners. She said three months of training can normally cost more than $100, well out of the range of the 35 youngsters in her program.
"We start out with front and back walkovers," said Childs. "The intermediate class start out with back hand springs, back summies (summersaults), side and front aerials and back tucks. They look forward to doing the back hand springs and back summies."
Childs is a former participant in the program who graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School and UDC. The NYSP program provided her only exposure to gymnastics.
"I think they (the youngsters) need an outlet and gymnastics is a much-needed outlet," said Childs. "I find that kids do better in school when they have gymnastics. Gymnastics is a great way to concentrate (for school work)."
"I like my friends here and I think it's fun. I always wanted to be in gymnastics," said Nicole McCauley, 13. One of her instructors in the floor excerises is McKinley graduate Gracie Brown, an all-America performer in the 400-meter hurdles this past season.
The NYSP provides the only feeder system for Interhigh League swimming programs. There are no swimming programs in the junior high schools and few swimming clubs within the city.
Swimming instructors Aaron Moore and Peter Smith, both former Cardozo swimmers, are former participants in the NYSP program. They now swim for Tennessee State University in Nashville.
"They have potential to be competitive swimmers. We tell them the facts. It's never too late to start swimming," said Moore.
NYSP and the National Junior Tennis League are the only two programs in the city that provide instruction in tennis to inner-city youngsters. Without the NYSP and NJTL programs, it would cost a youngster starting out about $15 per hour to train with a certified instructor.
Lionell Taylor is the only person certified to teach the bando karate form of self-defense in Washington.
"They are supposed to be prepared (if attacked). We drill them enough to use any form," said Edwards.
The cheapest one-week basketball camp in the Washington area starts at $60, well out of the range of the youngsters in the NYSP program.
"Basketball is my favorite sport," said SanJuan Bailey, 13. "I'm like a tomboy, and when you get to play basketball with the boys, you can really enjoy yourself."