Over the course of the past few weeks, the powers of the next generations and its leaders have been making their voice heard. A moving conglomerate of passionate individuals have spoken out on deemed “hot button” items that some individuals shy away. Last week, the country witnessed the “March For Our Lives” movement that took place in DC, as well as, several cities and towns across the United States. A movement with a message of gun control that has been broadcasted and bounced off several individuals all of different backgrounds, races, and religions. The one factor that has been a consistent part of this movement from the beginning: the youth.

Ever since the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School Valentine’s Day Attack, the country’s young people have been thrusted into the difficult topic of gun control. This was not a discussion that they wanted to be brought into as most of them were thinking of prom and Pre-Calculus just days prior. These are not issues that they should be considering, but unfortunately that is the reality with which we live.

At our MSPP, we have developed social justice modules that we pair with a math literacy component (NBA Math Hoops) as a means to develop critical thinking, one’s youth voice, and curiosity in learning. Pete Kaffenberger, PYB’s Program Analyst and Lead Academic Mentor, discusses on how we find the topics for our social justice modules, “Basically, we will tear headlines from the local and national papers to find discussion points with our student-athletes and allow for healthy discussion and attempting to work through the moral dilemma.” Pete told a recent local story of a Germantown girl that was removed from her basketball game due to the lack of a waiver signing that allows her to play with her hijab. Jimmy Lynch, Executive Director of Athletics for Philadelphia Schools, states, “Yes, could the waiver have been filled our? Sure. But is it an extra step that our students of different faiths have to do if they’re wearing different garments? Yes! And I don’t think that’s fair. They should always be eligible to play. Any religious garment worn with a game uniform should never prevent [the player] from participating in a game.” This local story was a relevant topic of discussion for our student-athletes since several of them are of the Muslim faith and this applies directly to their lives, their family, and friends.

That isn’t the only area with which our young people are measured. Within the hour of the academic component, our young people also focus on goal setting. It is over the 20-week program in which we discuss goal setting as it applies multiple applications. This is preceded at the beginning with a pre-test and followed by a post-test that focuses on the opinions and attitudes towards attending college, career interests, health and nutrition, etc. Developing goal setting skills allows for us to being laying the foundation to well-roundedness for our student-athletes. By allowing them to understand how to identify a problem, understand how to measure the desired outcome, and then look at what are the necessary steps to reach their ultimate goal. “Trusting the Process” is more than just a phrase adopted by the 76ers, but a message that remains true in taking the appropriate steps to look at yourself by understanding what methods or steps are best suited for you to improve.

Our kids are the future decision makers in this country. That is more than understood by looking at the “March For Our Lives” participants as well as the kids in PYB programming. Allowing for our student-athletes to develop goals, have a game plan, and think critically of themselves and other puts them amongst the many great minds that this next generation will have to offer.