PROVIDENCE—Coach Bill Black usually worries about his team making free throws and playing good defense. As head varsity boys basketball coach at La Salle Academy in Providence, he is plenty busy guiding his team during the season.
In the summer however, he has teamed up with neighboring schools and city officials in Providence to give something back to the city. The La Salle summer basketball camp—now in its second year—has become a special treat for local middle schoolers. With a special emphasis on serving the inner city, the camp is a great sign of hope for Catholic education in the City of Providence.
“The commitment of LaSalle to the inner city is very strong,” Black said. “The school could not be more supportive.”
The camp runs for two weeks serving over one hundred campers. They have a full day of basketball, with workshops, drills, and games from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The cost of $160 dollars for the full week—which includes professional coaching and the use of the state of the art facilities—is a real bargain. Best of all though, partial and full scholarships are available for families in need.
Black’s experience with Catholic education goes back many years. A 1993 graduate of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, Black now sees this work as especially tied to LaSalle’s Catholic identity.
“We went to the local Catholic school principals to talk about the camp,” Black explained. “We told them if there was someone who would like to participate, the cost should not be a factor.”
This year they are offering six full scholarships to students from the inner city. All the campers appreciate the interaction, making new friends and forging new partnerships.
“They learn from their various experiences and get along well…we couldn’t be happier,” Black said.
Former and current La Salle basketball players as well as vol unteer coaches from around the state make up an impressive staff.
Good sportsmanship is emphasized at the camp and the good spirit is palpable in the gym.
Jarell Gomes, who will enter the sixth grade at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Central Falls is one of the students who benefits from this program.
“It’s just great, I’m really having fun,” he explained. Gomes was all smiles as he explained that while he has played basketball at school before, the camp is helping him to improve his game and enjoy himself at the same time.
Andrew Berrios, a soon to be eleventh grader at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, is a star on the court.
“The camp helps me to work on my game, the coaches are supportive, and I am learning a lot,” Berrios said. His rebounding is especially improving, he explained, making his skill almost as impressive as his good spirit.
Berrios said he would strongly recommend the camp to others and is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the program.
“There is a focus on teaching and enthusiasm; on always having fun,” Coach Black explained. “If you aren’t having fun you shouldn’t be here.”
“They have smiles on their faces; they work hard, and interact with each other,” Black said. “It is a great thing for the school and for the community…it has been a great success.”