In October, the Rising Stars Youth Foundation held its first outreach tournament to much fanfare and even more cheer. According to founder Paul Savramis, the competition brought together the trifecta that makes the Rising Stars Youth Foundation formula a success: Basketball, Family and Education.
Q: When did Rising Stars Youth Foundation launch its initial outreach program?
Paul Savramis: These grassroots initiative programs, as we call them, have been in place throughout the city for the past six years and actually placed on Long Island last year. These are programs offered as outreach teams through local YMCAs and community centers to at-risk and underserved children. This includes all team activities free of charge, tutoring, and family memberships to the YMCA. Many of the students are given access to these new programs at a young age. They come from low-income families where addictions and gang-related issues are common.
Q: Why is it so important to introduce children to team sports and the importance of education at an early age?
Paul Savramis: I think that children, more than anything, want and need to feel like they belong. They long to be part of a team and to contribute to their community in a positive way. They do not want to feel like they are alone. Using basketball as our vehicle, we are able to let children see, from an early age, how all that is possible and how they can solve personal problems, as a team by applying the same basic concepts found on the basketball court to issues at home or at school.
Q: How much does it cost participating students and their families?
Paul Savramis: Through a partnership with the YMCAs and support from many generous private donors and organizations within the Foundation, we are able to offer these basketball teams and related support services at no charge. Often, the students are provided with a family YMCA membership as well. This provides a positive outlet for the entire family where they can both share experiences with their student athlete and engage with them in their community.
Q: Why basketball?
Paul Savramis: It’s never been about basketball, basketball is just our vehicle and what I know about. We have an incredibly powerful base from a team sense with Rising Stars’ reputation, and that draws kids into the programs. But once we have them as part of our teams, it becomes more about a sense of community. Our teams feel a responsibility to do more when they have a chance to show that they are more and can be more than the world expects. I’m proud to say that in the last three years, with that simple formula, we’ve added seven new outreach teams to the Foundation roster – six boys and two girls.