For the second consecutive year, the National Youth Sports Program, a monthlong summer camp for at-risk youth, will not be held at Middle Tennessee State University, according officials with the organization.
In 2005, federal funding for the national program was eliminated, said National Program Director Gale Wiedow.
"These programs are unable to continue without increased institutional and local community support," he said.
Locally, faculty from the MTSU health and human performance department have overseen the grant-funded camp, which combines sports instruction and recreation with educational programs, for about 300 at-risk youth from qualifying low-income households.
However, because no federal money was provided in the 2005 fiscal year U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appropriations bill, support at MTSU — as well as 201 other programs nationwide — will not be available this year.
From 2002-2005, MTSU staff and volunteers provided nearly 1,000 Rutherford County youth with free medical and dental health screenings, as well as four weeks of summer fun with educational, health-focused activities that included life lessons and skills. Free transportation to and from the weekday camp was included in the free program, as were two meals each day.
Dr. Dianne Bartley, chairwoman of health and human performance, said prior campers participated in activities such as self-defense, soccer, swimming, basketball, tennis, volleyball, golf, racquetball, weight training, and social and aerobic dance.
"This program has been so very valuable for the young people who attended," said Bartley, who is a former coordinator for the program.
"These campers also took part in educational classes instructed by MTSU educators and community leaders on topics such as alcohol and drug abuse and violence prevention, proper nutrition, personal health and disease prevention, career opportunities and job responsibilities, and higher education," she said.
Wiedow said MTSU is not alone in its inability to attract money to support the program, but some NYSP programs — including Tennessee State University in Nashville, which is currently the state's lone operating program in '07 — have been able to secure alternative funding to conduct programs on their campuses.
"Fifty other programs will run this year," he said, adding each of them has been funded locally by grant money, as well as the institution itself helping.
Currently headquartered in Indianapolis, the youth program was created when representatives from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports piloted its concept during the summer of 1968 at two university athletic facilities.
On March 17, 1969, the White House announced the federal government was committing $3 million to establish a sports program for economically disadvantaged youth, and the program was born.
Today, the National Youth Sports Program Fund, which operates under the National Youth Sports Corporation moniker, is a nonprofit organization established to administer projects nationwide.
Both Bartley and Wiedow agree that that if MTSU is to continue sponsoring the summer camp for at-risk youth, the local community must exercise its collective voice to help restore funding, so that it can return in 2008.