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Shooting baskets, building the community

The Midnight Madness program at UTSC provides neighborhood youth a way to develop their personal and professional skills.

Kids from around the community were up late on Friday shooting hoops at UTSC’s Athletics & Recreation Centre. They were there for the Midnight Madness event, a new community engagement program that gives youth an opportunity to develop their personal and professional skills through basketball.

As they shoot baskets over the summer, the 70 kids between ages 14 and 16 will also take a series of workshops including leadership development, community building and healthy active living, managing and avoiding conflict and violence, and financial literacy.

The program is a partnership between UTSC and Toronto Community Housing. Participants come from social housing neighbourhoods such as Alexandra Park, Flemingdon Park, Jane Street, Morningside and Rexdale.

“We use our infrastructure to uplift local communities in a bid to make a better place,” said Desmond Pouyat, dean of student affairs, as he welcomed members of the program at UTSC.

Participants also heard testimonials from grown-ups who’ve had similar experiences in the past. One was Jamaal Magloire, former Toronto Raptors player and now a basketball development consultant and community ambassador.

Magloire grew up in Scarborough and played in UTSC’s summer community basketball league as a teen before being drafted into the NBA. He urged the kids to make sacrifices and work hard to achieve their goals, while at the same time behaving appropriately.

“Nobody wants to be around a jerk,” he told an admiring crowd. “So, work hard in class and work hard on your game. You have no excuse; the reason why we are here is because we care about you.”

UTSC summer league players will be providing mentorship, helping them with practice on court and other assistance.

Atheena Dy is a UTSC alumnus currently working as a summer program assistant at the athletics and recreational centre. As a student, she was involved in helping organize and run the summer leagues, and now she is among the planners.

“It really warms my heart to see the smile on these kids’ faces, and to have our summer league guys give back to the community through this program,” she said.

Midnight Madness is one of many other UTSC experiential learning and mentorship programs that the university uses for community involvement, explained Scott McRoberts, director of athletics and recreation. It is similar to Henry Norrington Tennis program, an initiative that mentors kids between the ages of eight and 13 through tennis instruction.

Other partners in the Midnight Madness program include the Toronto Police Services, Ascot Co-Op, Concrete Roses Youth Services and the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club.

© University of Toronto Scarborough