WASHINGTON (WUSA) — When the gym doors at the Boys & Girls Club in Southeast opened on Monday night, the sounds of a typical basketball game spilled into the lobby: music blasting, athletes cheering, coaches yelling and sneakers squeaking.
Lloyd Cornish, executive director of the DeLoren Foundation was on the mic. The announcements mixed in with his description of the game made it clear why there was more to this match-up than just the competition.
Monday’s game between Ballou STAY and Maya Angelou Young Adult Learning Center was the first in the Alternative Education League’s (AEL) weekly invitational. Cornish wasn’t just describing the action on the court, he was also speaking to the players, telling them to spread the word about the AEL.
Now in its inaugural season, the league is designed specifically for 17 to 24-year-olds enrolled in night school and GED programs in the District.
Its objective is to engage students in extra-curricular activities and help them find college scholarships. Local adult education programs field teams based on eligibility requirements. To participate, students must have at least a 65 percent attendance record, a 2.0 GPA or show season-to-season improvement on equivalency tests.
“The AEL is incentive … to get kids in the programs to succeed …. so that they can play [basketball]. It’s [also] a buy-in mechanism to get [young adults] … to re-enroll so that they can play sports again,” said Cornish, who funds the league out of his own pocket.
The DeLoren Foundation, which helps DC’s at-risk youth, is working to expand the league until it is a full-on sports program like the DC Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA), the official sports league of DC Public Schools (DCPS).
Cornish says his vision for the future of the AEL is to include every DCPS night school and GED program. He also wants to introduce football and get more girls to participate in the league. As it is now, the AEL is co-ed, but Cornish says only one girl has come out to play basketball so far.
“[We are] trying to expand the social dynamic of GED programs and night schools because that’s just as important as the educational piece,” said Cornish. “It is [about] … relationship building, peer to peer interactions, building character and instilling values in the participating youth.”
Cornish says the AEL has received permission to use DCPS facilities in the fall, now it’s just a question of funding.
“I don’t want to fall short of what I feel my purpose is … to support the youth in DC,” said Cornish. “It’s my calling to do the work I’m doing.”
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