Part of the Urban League's mission is to partnership with community and businesses striving to help people, particularly to help African Americans become self-sufficient.
Thanks to a new partnership between the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle and the Rainier Beach High School football team, student athletes are provided with nutritious meals, as well as tutorial academic help — for those needing it.
It all started with a little gossip. Last year, James Kelly, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, heard stories about high school football coaches giving money out of their own pockets to student players who were hungry. Some of these students are living at or below poverty level.
"Being a young person once in my life, I know they don't always eat healthily," Kelly said. "The food of choice for some of these young students was licorice and Red Bull and that's not nutritious. I said, 'We need to do something about that.'"
Kelly contacted the school district and they said it would cost around $10,000 a year to feed the team quality meals.
A portion of the proceeds from Urban League's education program, that is for Rainier Beach High School, were raised through the Urban League's golf tournament, held in late June. It raised around $35,000.
"We asked people to give a little extra this time to help out the student athletes at Rainier Beach High School and they came through," Kelly said.
All 75 players are provided a hot, nutritionious meal before and after all their eleven games at home and on the road. The food is catered by Cynthia McDuffie-Wright of The Gold Band an Extraordinary Affair.
Kelly said they are contracting with educators at the University of Washington to help provide academic tutorial services to the students.
Kelly talked about a former student athlete of Rainier Beach High School who is now attending the University of Washington who will help tutor the students.
"It's a win-win all the way around for us so that we can be able to support a young man who is trying to improve his quality of life by pursing post-secondary education," Kelly said. "while at the same time putting a little money in his pocket. He also gets a chance to do what he loves to do, which is to give back, to teach," Kelly added. "It's the perfect marriage all the way around, we couldn't be more excited about someone who went to Rainier Beach High School, was a talented athlete himself, who now will in turn help these young students at the school."
"We believe that there are two parts of feeding the body, one is nutrionally and one is through academic enrichment," Kelly said. "To me, it's always been about making sure these students continue to be academically eligible."
Kelly said one of the challenges in education policy for student athletes is not finding the kind of academic support they need. In the past, a lot of school districts used to offer that service to student athletes. For years, organizations such as the Central Area Youth Association used to offer those types of services but students and coaches say they are limited with community-based organizations and virtually non-existent though the school district.
"For us, it's easier from an external factor to say we need to step up, these are our kids," Kelly said. "We want the community and corporations to step up big time to support our own overall educational focus but also with some additional resources to provide and help out the students at Rainier Beach High School."
Although this is the first year of the program, Kelly said he hopes it will be a permanent partnership. "We'd like to continue this vital program on an on-going basis," Kelly said.
"In addition to feeding them, we also wanted to feed the soul and offer tutorial academic achievement and enrichment throughout the year."
"Rainier Beach didn't approach us, we approached them, but because of the wonderful stories we've heard, the Urban League has always been willing to give in this way."