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US Lacrosse launches national youth partnership in Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 21, 2017) -- Albany High School was the host site June 21 as US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body, launched the first-ever Lacrosse Communities Project. The new nationwide program is designed to create opportunities for young people of all ages to play the sport beginning in elementary school.


The initiative aims to expand the reach of US Lacrosse programs to underserved urban populations while propelling the organization’s mission of providing accessibility and opportunity for kids across the country. The Lacrosse Communities Project launch at Albany High was followed by a youth skills clinic on the school’s athletic field.


“Data has shown that student-athletes have higher grade-point averages in both high school and college when compared to the general student population,” said City School District of Albany Interim Superintendent Kimberly Young Wilkins, Ed.D. (pictured at right).


“This collaborative effort will improve graduation rates for our students, and it will provide the support on and off the field that our students need to succeed.”


Through institutional partnerships between the district, the City of Albany, the Albany Police Athletic League and other local organizations, the Lacrosse Communities Project will provide the framework necessary to create self-sustaining, multi-generational lacrosse programs, with an emphasis on grades 3-6.


The aim of the initiative – through cooperatively run clinics, feeder schools and recreational programs, inter-team rivalries, varied opportunities for players, coaches, officials and fans, and the development of formal and informal networks – is to guide young people to continuing education and ultimately setting the stage for successful careers.  


"This collaborative effort will provide the foundation in lacrosse that our city’s young student-athletes need to become successful and competitive as they enter our modified, JV and varsity programs," Dr. Wilkins said. "The City School District of Albany is glad to be a member of this team."


Community partner CityLax NYS Albany, through its alliance with CityLax, Inc., will work alongside PAL to offer youth programming with an emphasis on ages 12 and under. CityLax and Beverwyck Lacrosse will partner to offer programming for middle schoolers and beyond. 


Additional programs, including the Adirondack chapter of US Lacrosse, are contributing toward an initial investment of $100,000 over two years. 


“We believe that lacrosse is a vehicle for enrichment and has the ability to change the trajectory of a child’s life,” said Susie Chase, vice president of philanthropy and partnership at US Lacrosse. “We are committed to working with our trusted community partners in the Albany region to help grow accessibility and opportunity for kids of all socioeconomic backgrounds.”


CityLax plans to deploy a similar model in Albany that has proved successful in New York City, where CityLax has developed 64 teams, engaged more than 1,500 boys and girls and boasts a 99.1 percent high school graduation rate since commencing operations 12 years ago.


Youth Life Support Network, Inc., an anti-gang not for profit that serves Albany and the Capital Region, also is a partner in the Lacrosse Communities Project. Its recreation program, Beverwyck Lacrosse, has engaged more than 150 young student-athletes from disadvantaged communities throughout the region in recent years.


This year Beverwyck placed 16 out of 17 of its graduating seniors into colleges.


“The collaboration announced today is the realization of many hours of hard work and dedication from multiple community partners,” said Beverwyck Lacrosse program manager Bill Andrews, whose son Rick was a member of the Albany High varsity lacrosse team this spring. “Our collaborators all share a vision of growing the game and using lacrosse as a means to help our communities’ kids attain a successful future.”


Mayor Kathy Sheehan joined several community partners in talking about the partnership at Wednesday’s news conference, including Dr. Wilkins, Chase, PAL Director Lenny Ricchiuti, CityLax founder Mat Levine and Scott Marr, coach of the University at Albany’s nationally recognized men’s lacrosse program.


"The City of Albany is honored to be selected as the first-ever host city of the Lacrosse Communities Project,” Sheehan said. “This is truly a collaborative approach and a great example of entities in the city and statewide coming together in the best interest of the children in our community.”


Albany County Sheriff Craig D. Apple noted that CityLax’s record of improving high school graduation rates in New York City over the past decade is indicative of the potential in Albany program.  


The Lacrosse Communities Project plans to expand into Cleveland in September and Brooklyn later in the fall.


Dr. Wilkins also acknowledged Albany High senior Laura Bulmer, who US Lacrosse recognized recently as an Academic All-American. Bulmer, who carries a 97.3 GPA in the classroom, was a second-team Times Union all-area selection this spring as a midfielder. She will attend Northeastern University in the fall. 


"Laura is an outstanding example for your future generations of Albany High lacrosse players to emulate," Dr. Wilkins said.


The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,600 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

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