Editorial: Youth program was good use of U.S. money

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reprinted from The Times and Democrat


By T&D Staff

The issue ~ National Youth Sports Program
Our opinion ~ Small investment could go a long way toward building citizenship

The time is 1993. The speaker is South Carolina Attorney General Travis Medlock, who at the time has served in the post for more than a decade.

He is in Orangeburg to address youth – the more than 300 ages 10-16 in attendance at the National Youth Sports Program at South Carolina State University.

Medlock asks his audience for a definition of good citizenship. One of the children says, “It means you are kind and helpful and don’t fight people a lot.”

Medlock approves the explanation but goes further to describe good citizenship as having “self-respect and respect for others.”

“Do you like the person sitting next to you? Are you willing to help them? That’s good citizenship,” Medlock says. “It’s being able to say ‘No’ if somebody wants you to do drugs, cut school, not do your homework, get into bad things. It’s being able to know what is the most important thing you own, your mind.”

Thousands of children got such messages via the SCSU summer program, which began in 1979 and continued through 2006. But not this year.

The NYSP at SCSU, named one of the nation’s top 30 programs by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1995, is no more. And neither are more than 200 NYSP programs nationwide at 50 colleges and universities.

S.C. State is unable to offer the NYSP because Congress eliminated NYSP funding from the federal budget in 2006. S.C. State was awarded $40,000 in carry-over federal funds from fiscal year 2005 to operate the 2006 NYSP program, and was provided with less than $5,000 to operate the 2007 program.

“S.C. State’s NYSP summer program has an outstanding reputation in Orangeburg and surrounding communities, one that families have looked forward to for 28 years,” said Steve Martin, S.C. State’s NYSP project administrator. “We regret that we won’t be able to offer this invaluable program this summer and hope that funding will be available to do so in 2008.”

Students participated in math and science classes and received at least one USDA-approved meal each day, allowing students who participate in the school lunch program to continue receiving nutritious meals in the summer. And NYSP programs nationwide have introduced participants to a college campus and encouraged consideration of postsecondary education as a possibility for their future.

In the summer of 2005, four South Carolina colleges and universities – S.C. State, Benedict, Coastal Carolina and Voorhees – provided the NYSP program to more than 1,400 children ages 10-16. After Congress discontinued funding, SCSU was the only South Carolina institution able to offer the program in 2006.

So a program that focused on a constructive summer experience for children in need of just that is no more. No more lessons in citizenship taught by the likes of Travis Medlock.

Look for NYSP students from the three decades of the program to have their say about the matter, exercising the most fundamental right by voting their displeasure. They’ll be joined by many others.