Community Spotlight: WVU’s National Youth Sports Program & Why It’s So Important

Tucked behind the Coliseum is the WVU Shell Building, one of the East Coast’s finest indoor facilities for track, field & athletic training. A bustling mecca of activity during the fall & spring semesters, it is relatively quiet in the summer months—with the exception of June 20th-July 20th, when it’s overtaken by over 100 local kids, aged 8-15. An annual summer camp now in its 30th year, the NYSP (National Youth Sports Program) is one of our areas most impactful youth programs, inviting kids from diverse backgrounds to experience a summer sports camp at a minimal and non-prohibitive cost.

While it was once a large, nationwide program, the NYSP is now only available in around 15 locations, mostly due to tightening state budgets. As one of the few remaining NYSP’s in the country, the WVU chapter prides itself in getting kids off the street, keeping them away from television and computer screens, and ensuring they are active and outdoors during the summer months.

From the hours of 9am-12:45pm, campers split their time between 3 different activities—ranging from basketball and flag football, to ultimate Frisbee and bowling. Campers also get the benefit of cooling off during swimming lessons, and get to grab a complimentary, healthy lunch before boarding the bus back home each day. WVU’s NYSP also incorporates field trips in their curriculum, taking campers on outings to the WVU Art Museum, the West Virginia Black Bears Baseball Stadium, and Raptor Rehab, an orphaned bird rehabilitation center. NYSP also welcomes special needs campers, providing individual mentors when necessary.

We sat down with Russell Orlikoff, the WVU NYSP Activities Director, to talk more about the lasting impact the program has had in the community. Orlikoff states: “We get a lot of positive feedback from the community; whole families have gone to NYSP... I think we create a positive outlet here, it’s more than keeping kids busy, its providing them with the tools they need to be successful in other aspects of their lives. We teach them about the importance of exercise and eating right (junk food is strictly forbidden), along with sports and leadership skills. The kids here are held to pretty high behavior standards, NYSP provides a good structure for them.”

Walking around the camp it’s easy to notice the big numbers of staff and volunteers- many of whom are NYSP alumni, all of whom find enjoyment in their daily interactions with the campers. With all the great work being done at WVU’s NYSP, it should come as no surprise that it just received a proclamation from the City Council for the success the program has had in our community.

A long-time advocate of the NYSP, the Book Exchange is proud to be a sponsor of our WVU chapter. For more information on the WVU chapter of the NYSP and to figure out how you can help support the program, visit: http://nysp.wvu.edu/.

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