Elevating Student Performance On and Off the Court

Loyola basketball team members participated in a basketball clinic with Elevate.
Loyola basketball team members participated in a basketball clinic with Elevate.

By James Shields, Communications Coordinator

Basketball is a game—pure and simple. For some local high school players, this game can possess life-changing possibilities, like earning a college scholarship. But while New Orleans has no shortage of talented high school prospects, basketball talent alone is not enough to ensure they can meet the requirements to get into college, and if admitted, stay there and graduate.

This is why the Office of Service Learning at Loyola has partnered with Elevate New Orleans, a group that works with gifted, local basketball players from the 7th – 12th grade. The mentor-based program not only helps these athletes with their jump shots, but tutors them in academics, as well as the life and social development skills needed to pursue a college degree and succeed in college-level athletics. Following high school graduation, Elevate continues to mentor students after they start college to help them stay on track.

Last semester, 11 Loyola students from five different service learning courses taught by five different professors in the sociology, religion, and English departments volunteered with Elevate, which operates out of Kingsley House in the Lower Garden District.

Each weeknight, Loyola students assisted with homework and academic tutoring. Additionally, students from Loyola’s Ignatian Scholars Program helped Elevate teens prepare for the ACT and SAT—an all-important step in the college application and admissions process.

Sky Hyacinthe, executive director of Elevate New Orleans, thinks it is imperative for kids to not only get into college, but that they have the necessary tools to be fully prepared for what they expect once they get there. One way that Elevate does this is by showing students how to enroll and apply for financial aid.

“We have a big problem in this country with student athletes not graduating. They'll play for four years and not have a degree to show for it. We’re showing them that in order to be a success, you have to practice and you have to commit on and off the court,” Hyacinthe said.

Kellie Kennedy, Loyola women’s basketball coach, took notice after one of her basketball players, Keiva Council, expressed her admiration for the program. In October, the women’s team participated in a basketball clinic with Elevate students at Kingsley House.

“It’s such a big part of what we do at Loyola, going out and doing community service. It is also such a big part of what we do in athletics,” Kennedy said. “For women’s basketball as a program, we’ve been searching for something that my students can sink their teeth into, something we can continue to stay involved with, develop, and nurture.”

On November 21, students from Elevate got a taste of college life when they visited Loyola’s campus and shadowed members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams for a “Day in the Life of a College Athlete” experience. Students observed what it’s like to balance class, practice, and social life in a university setting and gained a greater appreciation for the discipline and dedication necessary to succeed as a college-level student-athlete.

View the complete spring 2012 issue of LOYNO.

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