"After school is as important to what happens during school,” stated Eagles punter, Donnie Jones. As the Philadelphia youth competitors and coaches gathered round, Jones expressed the equal importance of After School time and on-site classroom learning; a perfect game-day, rousing speech to kick off chess and Scrabble league seasons, on Monday, October 24th after an Eagles win against the Vikings.
In conjunction with the NFL’s 18th annual Hometown Huddle league-wide day of service, the Philadelphia Eagles and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) joined ASAP/After School Activities Partnerships in the high school chess league and Scrabble Scholastic league kick off. The Philadelphia Eagles have been a longtime supporter of ASAP chess. However, this year, ASAP Scrabble teamed up with the Eagles Care Community to host the inaugural Scholastic Scrabble League kick off. Hosted at the School District of Philadelphia, the event comprised of over 150 chess competitors and 45 Scrabble players from throughout the city.
Philadelphia Eagles- Julie Bacanskas
During the NFL season, Monday is typically reserved as a day off for the team. Many Eagles players, such as Donnie Jones and Caleb Sturgis, however, use this opportunity to enhance the quality of life for residents in the Delaware Valley through the Eagles Care Community Monday initiative. Every week during the season, the Eagles team up with local non-profit charities on a variety of activities that aim to make a lasting impact on the community. These strategic partnerships do this by lifting spirits at local hospitals, strengthening neighborhoods, educating youth on healthy eating and physical fitness, promoting eco-friendly methods and making generous donations. This particular Monday, Jones and Sturgis were put to the test against ASAP chess and Scrabble participants, in addition to some veteran coaches…Johnny Scrabble and Matt Hopkins.
While Donnie Jones questioned his tiles across from Johnny Scrabble, Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis began a chess match against a student from the Carver High School team. Friendly smiles were exchanged, as competition eluded.
Philadelphia Eagles- Julie Bacanskas
This was no typical third down or possible 2 point conversion at the Linc. As double word bonuses were gained, pawns were taken. Jones quickly realized the disadvantage of having only vowels on his Scrabble rack, while Strugis learned the value of home-field advantaged; the School district of Philadelphia is our Philly Youth’s turf.
"We are proud to have District students participate in ASAP's 2016 Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League and the new Philadelphia Scholastic Scrabble League, " states Dr. Hite, Philadelphia School District Superintendent. "Not only do these activities help improve students' analytical skills, memory, and decision-making abilities, but they also provide students the opportunity to meet children from other neighborhoods and schools. I'd like to thank ASAP, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey for supporting this important effort."
Jones and Sturgis, in addition to volunteers from #projectNEXT and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, were essential in representing the over-all message ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships wanted to portray during this joint event; Hard work, dedication, passion and willingness to learn from one another. ASAP states that after school is not just a time kids get to be themselves, but a time they get to BECOME themselves. Events such as the league kick off for both initiatives chess and Scrabble are a time Philadelphia youth get to BECOME themselves through enrichment activities that garner their specific interest. There is something for everyone.
As matches were concluded and flip clocks were switched off, ASAP staff, United Way volunteers and the Eagles Care community stood back and watched the comradery amongst the leagues. High fives were exchanged among our young scrabble players and handshakes given to conclude a match. We again were reminded by Jones’ words, "How you respond to adversity will make you a better person." Our kids responded with dignity, a few giggles and lessons in the game they had not known prior. Although two very different games, Philadelphia youth from both initiatives left with a similar sentiment; a fun and challenging day of BEING themselves.
Thank you again to the School District of Philadelphia for providing a space for our kids to BE themselves in a healthy, encouraging and competitive environment, in addition to United Way volunteers and #projectNEXT who took the time to invest in our kids, as they build character and skills relevant to advance in their well-rounded, academic futures and positive relationships with their peers. In addition, we would like to thank Eagles Care Community & United Way for honoring ASAP for the 18th Annual Hometown Huddle grant. ASAP is also grateful for the Eagles Care Community and Philadelphia Eagles who came out to support our kids; as Jones and Sturgis know, two-a-days on the practice field are not worth much without the game day arena to showcase those skills.
This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships Communitions & Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey