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Off the Sideline

One year of getting kids into the game

4/6/2017, 2:36 p.m.
The rising costs of participating in school-based sports and after-school activities is causing more families to opt out, but a ...
(from left to right) The Plaza Park Boys’ basketball team, comprised of youth from the Plaza Townhomes apartment community in north Portland, was funded entirely by scholarships from the non-profit group “Off the Sideline.” Their Plaza Townhomes apartments community has rallied behind them, and the team lost just one game this season. Stanley struggled academically as a member of the Volunteers of America Oregon community over the past few years, but turned his grades around to As and Bs since jumping at the chance to play football. The non-profit group “Off the Sideline” is helping at-risk youth like Stanley participate in school-based sports and after school activities.

The rising costs of participating in school-based sports and after-school activities is causing more families to opt out, but a Portland non-profit has found a way to get more kids into the game.

“Off the Sideline” issued its first sports scholarship one year ago. Today, with the help of organizations like the Volunteers of America, Hacienda, Home Forward and the Boys and Girls Club, more than 80 scholarships to low-income families have been awarded for kids in grades 5 through 9.

The result is that more at-risk youth in Portland can take part in team sports and have access to sports programs to help them become healthy, happy and successful in life, activities that can improve their health and fitness levels, help them develop positive role models, hone social skills and broaden their community network.

The scholarships allow children to participate in a variety of sports ranging from golf to volleyball.

The organization helped Rosa Parks Elementary in north Portland put together two basketball teams. Across town, the Plaza Park Boy’s basketball team was funded entirely by the scholarships. Their Plaza Townhomes apartment community has rallied behind them, and the team lost just one game this season.

Another example comes from Stanley, a young boy who struggled academically over the past few years, but started to improve on his failing grades when he jumped at the chance to finally play football. He was required he maintain a C average while on the team and he is now receiving As and Bs, group leaders said.

“While other programs support individuals or teams with the most athletic promise, our mission is to build healthy communities and reach youth who are most at risk,” says Leslie Mestman, Off the Sideline executive director. “Our communities are stronger when kids have safe, supportive activities that build self-esteem and encourage them to make healthy choices.”

The scholarships also enable youth to participate in the sport or program that works best for them, rather than relying on what is free.

“Hacienda CDC is thrilled to partner with Off the Sideline,” says Jaclyn Sarna, Expresiones program manager. “Youth in our community have a deep connection to sports, but their families often experience barriers to participation. Off the Sideline eases the cost burden on our families, which levels the playing field and helps our youth live healthy, active lives.”

For more information about Off the Sideline, visit offthesideline.org