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Loyola elevates student performance on and off the court

Loyola press release - November 21, 2011

Basketball is a game – pure and simple. For some local high school players, this game can possess life-changing possibilities, like earning a college scholarship. But while New Orleans has no shortage of talented high school prospects, basketball talent alone is not enough to ensure they can meet the requirements to get into college, and if admitted, stay there and graduate.

This is why the Office of Service Learning at Loyola University New Orleans has partnered with Elevate New Orleans, a group that works with gifted, local basketball players from the 7th-12th grade. The mentor-based program not only helps these athletes with their jump shots, but tutors them in academics, as well as the life and social development skills needed to pursue a college degree and succeed in college-level athletics. Following high school graduation, Elevate continues to mentor students after they start college to help them stay on track.

This semester, 11 Loyola students from five different service learning courses taught by five different professors in the sociology, religion and English departments are volunteering with Elevate, which operates out of Kingsley House in the Lower Garden District.

Each weeknight, Loyola students assist with homework and academic tutoring. Additionally, students from Loyola’s Ignatian Scholars Program are helping Elevate teens prepare for ACT and SAT – an all-important step in the college application and admissions process.

Sky Hyacinthe, executive director of Elevate New Orleans, thinks it is imperative for kids to not only get into college, but that they have the necessary tools to be fully prepared for what they expect once they get there. One way that Elevate does this is by showing students how to enroll and apply for financial aid.

“We have a big problem in this country with student athletes not graduating. They'll play for four years and not have a degree to show for it. We're showing them that in order to be a success, you have to practice and you have to commit on and off the court,” Hyacinthe said.

Kellie Kennedy, Loyola women’s basketball coach, took notice after one of her basketball players, Keiva Council, expressed her admiration for the program. In October the women’s team participated in a basketball clinic with Elevate students at Kingsley House.

“It's such a big part of what we do at Loyola, going out and doing community service. It is also such a big part of what we do in athletics,” Kennedy said. “For women's basketball as a program, we've been searching for something that my kids can sink their teeth into, something we can continue to stay involved with, develop and nurture.”

On Monday, Nov. 21, students from Elevate will get a taste of college life when they visit Loyola’s campus and shadow members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams for a “Day in the Life of a College Athlete” experience. Students will observe what it’s like to balance class, practice and social life in a university setting and gain a greater appreciation for the discipline and dedication necessary to succeed as a college-level student-athlete.

“There are so many things that athletics provides, and I think even the kids that don’t make it to college can still be a part of a program, be part of an organization, and learn so much from athletics. I’m hoping we can be a little part of that,” Kennedy said.

For more information, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888 or jshields@loyno.edu.