Dear Governor Chafee:
Recently, the state budget commission appointed to the city of East Providence has decided to deprive our students and community of the ability to participate in middle school sports. Although I fully understand the difficult job the commission must undertake, I fear this move will have dire effects on our students’ educational experience and will serve to erode our sense ofcommunity.
On Feb. 23, hundreds of East Providence residents joined with our youth to voice their objections to the elimination of middle school sports. It was touching to witness the confidence and conviction these students demonstrated when they stood up before a large crowd to testify to the benefits they have gained in their academic and social development because of the schoolsports programs. As you know, the middle school years are the most formidable years of a child’s life. These students are leaving the comfort of their elementary school environments – where they have been for the past six years with the same student body – and are put into a new environment with unfamiliar peers and teachers. Their mentors have been left behind and their friends may have gone to a different middle school.
It is at this point in their young lives that bullying and other negative influences can have such serious negative impacts on a child’s development. Middle school sports allow the student athlete to become part of the school community and to build new and long-lasting friendships. They learn the value of teamwork and the valuable lessons learned when you win and lose. Many of the students testified to the importance of their coach in their lives as both a teacher and mentor. Students spoke of how middle school sports have forced them to work harder at their academic goals and how they have led to remarkable improvements in test scores.
Middle school sports benefits more than just the student athlete. It benefits the entire school as it brings the student body together to root for its school team. It builds pride within the school and the community. In many instances, this is the only opportunity some members of our community have to come together for a positive common goal: rooting for and supporting their student athletes. Many in East Providence refer to this as “Townie Pride.” It is an essential part of the fabric of our community.
After having been exposed to the testimony of these young students this past Thursday, I question why middle school sports are not part of the state’s Basic Education Plan. If our goal is to give our students an excellent education with valuable life lessons that will serve them for years to come, why aren’t we requiring middle school sports throughout the state? On a personal note, my 10-year-old son who has been playing soccer since age 5 was recently expressing how excited he was to join the soccer team. His hopes have been dashed by the budget commission’s decision to eliminate middle school sports. He was so upset that when I mentioned there was a protest scheduled this past Thursday, he asked to be part of it. It was an excellent opportunity to teach him about civic involvement.
I hope you will intervene to ensure that his dreams and those of more than 500 other East Providence children are realized by saving our middle school sports.
Representative – District 63