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   Date: 8/20/09 Bookmark and Share

With Alumnae Donations, Youth Projects Expand

Thanks to the financial support of two Smith alumnae, a pair of outreach projects developed at the college will have an impact on an even greater number of young people.

Project Coach coaches meet their teams.

Project Coach, which teaches coaching and fundamental leadership skills to dozens of young people from the nearby cities of Holyoke, Chicopee and Springfield, recently received a three-year grant totaling $45,000 from Jane Cecil ’50, to expand to other communities.

Meanwhile, Smith’s STEP UP (Summer Talent Exploration Program–Unleashed Potential), which brings middle school girls to campus for one week each summer to help them discover and develop their talents and interests while learning about college, was offered at another college four states away.

STEP UP, which is funded by Linda Salisbury ’78 through The Salisbury Foundation, invites students to Smith from several leadership schools for young women across the nation, including the Chestnut Accelerated Middle School of Springfield, Mass. 

For the past six summers, participating girls have learned about important health issues, challenged themselves with activities such as rock climbing and horseback riding, improved their leadership skills, and developed their ability to set and achieve goals.

Among the many new skills learned by STEP UP participants: wall climbing and horseback riding.

For five years, Project Coach, which was started by Sam Intrator, associate professor of education and child study, and Donald Siegel, professor of exercise and sport studies, has prepared teens between ages 14 and 18 to coach basketball and soccer to elementary school children (in grades two through five). Each year the program employs three dozen coaches and nearly 200 elementary-aged children.

Last month, Salisbury, who is a member of the Smith Board of Trustees, invited Project Coach to bring its curriculum model to the STEP UP program she was creating at Wabash College in Indiana. Her aim was to provide the benefits of her proven STEP UP model to middle school boys.

The program began with a weekend retreat in Chicago, called Project Coach Academy, that focused on developing a range of core leadership skills such as conflict resolution, strategic planning, communication and motivating others. The Project Coach staff and Salisbury then visited Wabash College to implement a week-long intensive version of its model to underserved urban teens from Chicago and Benton Harbor, Mich., who had been identified in their communities as emerging leaders.

With Cecil’s grant, Project Coach plans to expand and further develop its program model, said Intrator. “We are thrilled to have Jane Cecil’s support,” he said. “This funding will allow us to expand Project Coach into other schools, colleges, and communities.”

An adult supervisor at the Boys and Girls Club in Crawfordsville, Ind., recently underscored the importance of Project Coach. “In only four days, the youth coaches have changed the whole dynamic and feel of the place,” he told Intrator. “We’ve had kids pressed against the doors waiting for you [Project Coach staff] to arrive.”

View a YouTube video overview of Project Coach.


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