Expanding Year-Round Physical Activity Programming for YouthNYSHealth awarded Missio Church a grant to provide expanded physical activity programming year-round for youth in the Near Westside of Syracuse.
Building Healthy Communities
July 2017- June 2020
The Near Westside of Syracuse—an NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund community—is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Syracuse; nearly 70% of its children live in poverty.
Residents expressed a need for more organized sports and mentorship opportunities for local youth. Also, many sports and after-school activities were fee-based and unaffordable for parents. To encourage Near Westside youth to be more physically active and engaged in their community, Missio Church developed formal programming at the neighborhood’s only park, Skiddy Park. It aimed to provide year-round programming, free of charge, to at least 30% of the young children living in the neighborhood.
Outcomes and Lessons Learned
- Collaborated with community partners and residents to increase the number of children participating in the physical activity programs, including sports and arts activities at Skiddy Park, a softball league, and the after-school Westside Kids’ Club.
- Hired older teen volunteers to act as counselors-in-training to encourage consistent and positive interaction with community residents, improve peer relationships, and foster a sense of pride in the neighborhood.
- Exceeded its goal of reaching at least 30% of children in the Near Westside, resulting in:
- Participation in the Summer at Skiddy outdoor program increased 100%;
- Participation in the youth softball league increased 100%; and
- Participation in Missio’s after-school program increased 38%.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a severe and unexpected challenge. However, Missio effectively pivoted its programming and responded to the community’s needs. During the lockdown beginning in March 2020, Missio redirected funds for its after-school programming to provide more than 200 activity boxes to children in the neighborhood with items that would encourage them to be healthy and active while sheltering in place (e.g., jump ropes, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, and healthy snacks).
Missio also made significant progress in engaging with city partners over the course of the grant. For example, the Syracuse Housing Authority (SHA) is now the fiscal sponsor of the softball league, and Missio is working to establish a volunteer soccer league with SHA. The principal of the elementary school next to Skiddy Park has joined Missio’s community team to help plan events at the park and engage families to participate. Missio also successfully recruited the Deputy Commissioner of the Syracuse Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Programs to become one of the coaches of its softball teams. The engagement of these partners and officials will help sustain the effort.
Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A