OW Contributor | 5/28/2008, 5 p.m.
Inner city youths looking for an escape from the pressures of urban life, only have to "reach out" to a local nonprofit for guidance and critical connections.
The Reach More Foundation has been a youth hideout from the perils of the inner city since its birth in 1995 by founder Harvey Neilman.
Through classes, workshops, and its main attraction of league basketball, this organization extends its service to multi-cultural, economically disadvantaged, and socially troubled student athletes. The foundation has become a gateway to higher education, providing a curriculum to improve the academic achievement, and career success of its participants. It does this while simultaneously holding true to its governing rule that teaches those involved to become students first, athletes next, and future leaders after that.
Norris Dorsey, a former student athlete who has been involved with the program since 1997, strongly advocates the Reach More Foundation's primary principal of participation because he knows how important it is. He works as vice president of student services at the organization, and has personal experience with the life of a student athlete. Dorsey played basketball for Cal State Northridge (89'-93), and is now instrumental to the organization's success because of his involvement in foundation events, especially those located in the Los Angeles area.
He also heads a department that utilizes the method of capacity building, where he solicits volunteers to donate their time as mentors to help the youth involved with the institute.
"I was an average youth, and I want to make sure that I help any other average youth with any opportunities that I can," said Dorsey, who added that Reach More is particularly helpful to urban youth because of the mentoring he as well as the other adults involved provide.
"We teach young boys by way of tough love, our examples and our leadership how to become men. We express to them that just because you have a girlfriend or can commit a crime doesn't make you a man. Getting a quality education and staying out of trouble; these are things a man does," said Dorsey.
The vice president isn't alone spreading this message of manhood to the youth in the foundation.
L.A. resident, Sam McDonald, 22, is both an active participant as well as a mentor in the program. McDonald got involved with the organization in the summer of 2007 in hopes of opening doors of opportunity to play college basketball.
"The Reach More Foundation has given me, as well as other participants, avenues of playing college and professional basketball that are difficult to find in other programs because of their (the organization's) direct tie to the NCAA," said McDonald.
In his role of delivering life advice to the younger participants involved, McDonald calls on his own personal background. "As a young man who has gone through the pressures of adolescence and young adulthood, I am able to guide the younger (boys and girls) involved in the right direction, as they travel the path to adulthood," said McDonald.
The Reach More Foundation serves the greater San Fernando Valley and surrounding areas including inner city Los Angeles. It has a year around basketball league, located in all of its governing areas, and offers two summer events--a summer basketball league at Chatsworth High School in the San Fernando Valley, and another entitled "Hoops by the Beach," played at Venice Beach
Because these are the only NCAA-sanctioned leagues in Los Angeles County, student athletes have an opportunity to play summer ball outside of their school programs without fear of losing their eligibility. Youth in the program range in age from 17 to 25 and come from all races, genders, and backgrounds. Currently there are more than 250 students in the program, 85 of whom are women.
Getting involved in the program is simple. Young men and women can contact their high school or collegiate basketball coach for details regarding the acceptance process or call the organization at (818) 213-9829. To get more information on the Reach More Foundation, log on to their website at www.reachandmorebasketball.com.