Where athletics and academics go hand in hand - FOX 13 News

Where athletics and academics go hand in hand

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Finding a way to motivate teenagers during the summer can be challenging, especially after a long school year. But some Tampa middle schoolers are spending part of their summer sharpening their skills.

They're not required to be in school; they want to be.

"The Skills Center is a good thing," said Pierre Alsint, a rising eighth-grader. "I think you all need to come."

It's not summer school, it's a yearlong club that uses sports as the hook. The computer programs are sports-themed to keep attention and create friendly competition.

"You can teach kids through sports," said Celeste Roberts, executive director for the Skills Center. "Our goal is to strategically use athletics as a mechanism to accelerate academic achievement, build character, and promote health and fitness."

John Arroyo, Celeste Roberts, and Chris Ward created this concept in 2007 and it's working. Struggling students are now making high marks.

"What I got is honor roll just because of them," said Alsint. "They dip into every subject, but mainly math."

"All my grades are an A," said Jonathan Fores, a rising seventh-grader. "My parents are very proud."

"Kids realize that, one, they can do it," explained Roberts. "At first they thought they didn't have a high aptitude, say in math. But over a period of time when they practiced, they understand. They can see the progress that they made. That's good because that helps with the self-esteem and their confidence."

Work in the Skills Center starts in the classroom, but it's not all about academics. There are kids that come with very solid grades, but they are looking to work on their athletic talents.

Pro athletes like former Detroit Lions defensive back Kevin Abrams frequently come to share their skills.

"If we are going to teach sports, we are going to teach it the right way," said Roberts. "We want kids to learn the theory behind the sport and we want them to learn how to play the correct way. I think then they will have a better understanding of the particular sport and how they can excel in the particular sport of their choice."

Skills Center: http://www.theskillscentertampabay.org

Sports programs: http://www.skillscenterleagues.org

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