Efforts to boost after-school activity participation see progress

Pat Loeb
December 29, 2019 - 4:30 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A year and a half ago, a youth sports task force found that only one in five Philadelphia middle schoolers was getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity a day. That launched an effort that's increased participation, at least a little bit.

"Two years ago, there was nothing happening at this school after school," said Salvatore Sandone as he watched four fourth and fifth grade girls showing off their martial arts skills at an after-school program at Locke Elementary, in West Philadelphia, with a sense of pride. His martial arts studio, Zhang Sah, brought the program there but, also, as a founding member of the Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative, he believes it's teaching them so much more than the physical moves.

"Sport can be utilized to have a different place in the lives of children and youth," Sandone explained. "They're something that can transform a child physically, cognitively that ultimately can help them out in a lot of different trajectories in their life."

The girls didn't quite see that. "I thought it was going to be fun and I could defend myself when I have a problem," said London. Angel said she liked fighting, and Assata shared how she felt more confident, while Layla talked about learning new kicks and punches. Did she see herself having to use them?

"Maybe on self-defense," she answered. "You never know when someone's going to come out of nowhere.

Locke students also have access to classes in tennis and hip-hop, and sometimes Zumba and soccer. 

The Collaborative sponsors programs in three other schools too, and the city's Out of School Time initiative is in others. The ultimate goal is to provide the opportunity for every child in the city.

That is obviously a long-term goal, and it takes a lot of partners, but Sandone says the success at Locke shows it can be done. "For the past two years, there's been a lot of good things happening here at Locke," he said. "And we're happy to be part of it."