An Update on PHENND’s newest partnership – Sixers Youth Foundation Coaching Café

Posted on January 03, 2018

By Rona Whitehead, MSW Candidate; Stockton University

This year PHENND has taken on a new project called Coaching Café, in collaboration with the Sixers Youth Foundation (the non-profit arm of the 76ers basketball team.) The Coaching Café is an after school / early evening program, similar to a ‘homework diner’, where parents and caregivers along with their children engage in activities at the school over a shared meal. There are many components and partners involved, and spearheading this at PHENND is our new MSW intern from Stockton College, Rona Whitehead.

During the café, students work on improving their math skills through NBA Math Hoops, a fast-paced board game that uses real stats of professional players of the NBA and the WNBA. According to NBA Math Hoops “Nationwide, 82% of low-income eighth graders are not proficient in math. Failing a math class in middle school is a key indicator for dropping out of high school, which leads to a lifetime of struggle.”  NBA Math Hoops is developed and distributed by Learn Fresh, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, in association with NBA Cares. The Philadelphia 76ers have adopted the initiative and partnered with PHENND to conduct two Coaching Cafés in Philadelphia. PHENND is conducting the program on behalf of the 76ers at Emlen Elementary and Harding Middle School, selected because they each have a PHENND VISTA Community Partnerships Coordinator to serve as an important liaison.

In addition to the VISTAs, there are many people who support the coaching café.  The 76ers have secured Jeremiah Oteh, a University of Pennsylvania Law school student and a skilled Math Hoops expert trained by Learn Fresh, to lead the game. In addition to the game, students are challenged in the gym by Master Coach Johnson from Up2Us Sports, where they learn sportsmanship while improving their basketball skills.

The PHENND VISTAs assigned to each school ensures students are reminded to attend and also conduct ongoing recruitment. Tina Fields, Emlen’s VISTA, sends diligent reminders to all students while always offering the program to other students within the school. Ms. Jones, a fourth grade math teacher, has encouraged all of her students and their families to participate. She also attends to guide and cheer the students and families along. Although the game was developed for grades 3-6 Emlen Elementary has decided to focus on primarily fourth graders and their siblings.

Harding’s VISTA, Natalie Agoos, works to bring relevant workshops to parents while the students are busy with the Up2Us physical activity. The schedule is full with workshops with the most recent being presented by Shakia McKinsey entitled On Track to Post-Secondary Education. Shakia is the Associate Director of College Readiness for the Uncommon Individual Foundation.

After the physical and intellectual activities, the café offers the students and their families a hot dinner where everyone can relax and enjoy each other’s company. In recent weeks the Philadelphia 76ers hosted festive activities at both schools that included meeting Jermaine Jones, a retired player, who had motivational thoughts for the café participants. He also answered questions and posed for photos. The students and parents were showered with items ranging from 76ers gear and game tickets to gift cards for local establishments from the Philadelphia 76ers.

In addition to reinforcing math skills, Math Hoops is a competitive game and our Emlen and Harding teams are being coached to become eligible in the regional tournament. We look forward to cheering on our students as they gain math skills and continue to build good teamwork and sportsmanship.

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