Jocks Befriend Youths
'Volunteers for Youth' Makes a Comeback
It was the final, frustrating to a tough season, a 30-28 loss to Yale. But in the varsity football locker room after the game, among the sweaty, sulking figures, several rambunctious boys playfully darted amongst the benches and towels.
The kids were neither nor siblings, but students from the Martin Luther King. Jr. Elementary School in Cambridge, members of a big brother program that has become increasingly popular among Harvard athletes.
Volunteers for Youth [VFY], a student run organization operating under the guidance of the Department of Athletics and the NCAA, gives all intercollegiate and intramural student athletes the opportunity to from one-on-one friendships with children from the Cambridge Community The program also seeks to provide positive role models improve the self esteem of junior high school aged youths.
Designed to match Harvard students with little brothers and sisters between the ages of nine and 15. Harvard chapter is currently undergoing a rebuilding year, said Becky player and one of the four student directors.
Jim Kubacki, freshman football coach and an advisor for VFY said that although the Harvard program was instituted in 1975, it dwindled in popularity over the years until it was virtually defunct by last year.
But Bradshaw and basketball player Carol Greene, informed of the program last spring, decided to get the program off the ground for the present school year. They attended a VFY summer seminar at Springfield State College, and were later joined by co student directors Erin Callan and Mike Haas. The four initiated the program last fall by matching 15 Harvard students with Cambridge children.
The directors work with the principal of the King School John Caulfield, who is responsible for finding children to participate in the program and getting their parents consent.
Bradshaw said she was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic response among the athletic community. "Our problem now," she said. "Is that were being involved with students who want to get involved with the program and we don't have enough kids to go around." According Greene neither the directors nor Caulfield anticipated the large number of interested athletes after years of only moderate success.
Recently, however, Caulfield has been founding up kids left and right. Bradshaw said that with 25 new names, the directors are now assigning little brothers and sisters to several student locks who were placed on a, waiting first last fall.
Glen Philpott one of the patient big brothers to be, said that youngsters are drawn to the program because of a fascination with sports heroes. "The American role model for a lot of kids is the athlete," he said
Bill Koechler a quarterback on the football team, was matched up with a fifth grader named Myron in December Kochler jumped at the chance to be a big brother. "We take a lot from this place, and the program is an opportunity to give something back to the community," he said.
Another gridder volunteer, John Keenan, noted another advantage to the big brother experience. "I'm the youngest in my family, so this is a new experience for me," he said. "I've always wanted to be on the other end of the spectrum."