CRYSP DC (formerly known as Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park) is helping Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid connect Washington, D.C.’s youth to sports camps this summer. The youth sports outreach program gives kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to play organized sports the opportunity to join various summer camps throughout D.C.
From soccer to rollerblading to hockey and more, the program’s objective is to increase accessibility to high-quality sports and recreation programs.
“Our youth enrichment program has given kids confidence in themselves, an outlet to be creative, and a way to have fun with their friends,” Miranda Mlilo says, who coordinates the mentoring and enrichment programs for Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid. “Our program is shaped to be a direct reflection of what our community is asking for. We are grateful to be able to continue [working] with families to make sure their kids are excited about their futures and what they are capable of by providing opportunities and resources that are long-term, sustainable and empowering.”
According to CRYSP DC Executive Director Anne Corbett, CRYSP DC decided to help fund Serve Your City’s program after noticing the high volume of kids — mostly kids of color between the ages of 10 to 14 — wandering around their field, with nothing to do.
“The biggest issue nationally in youth sports and recreation is, ‘How do we get kids with fewer resources into consistent sports and recreation programs?’” Corbett says. “And frankly, to me, part of this particular program’s challenge going forward is consistency. Just because I got your kid into one week of soccer camp doesn’t solve [all of] your family’s [problems].”
Part of what Corbett does is develop relationships with participating kids’ parents, so they stay committed to following up with her and making sure their kids continue having access to these outlets.
“All of our permit organizations are encouraged to have scholarships available,” Corbett adds. “But they don’t necessarily have the relationships with the organizations or the families who need the scholarships.”
CRYSP DC and Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid are partnering to connect these underserved kids to sports programs. Capitol Hill Community Foundation provided seed money in 2020 that CRYSP used to start the program this spring, and DC Fray provided summer funds that closed the gap on 15 scholarships.
Corbett says it’s important for children to have access to sports and recreation because it increases their social, emotional and developmental well-being. This is often linked to better school performance as it teaches essential life skills and fights childhood obesity.
“Serve Your City has worked for a decade in D.C. to provide Black and brown youth in the city with the same extracurricular activities, tutoring and college prep courses as their white classmates,” Rachel Usdan says , a volunteer with Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual aid. “ Through partnerships with local organizations like CRYSP DC and DC Fray, we have worked with hundreds of students and families to help break down the systemic barriers that still exist for far too many Black and brown youth in the District. We are thrilled to have so many youth this summer engaged in sports, arts, and other programs to help build healthy thriving youth and communities.”
The program started in the spring of 2021 with just 12 students enrolled, and in its second season this summer, has increased that number to 45 students. Corbett would love to see 100 kids placed in soccer, rollerblading, flag football and baseball programs for three seasons out of the year.
“I would call that a win, but it would still probably be just the tip of the iceberg. I would guess we probably have 1000 kids a season at the fields,” Corbett says. “To hit 10% [and] then to get 10 to 20% scholarship students scholarship athletes on our fields would be fantastic.”