The Michigan Youth Impact Program took place from July 6 – July 18 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This two week program was about more than football though; it also included academic and athletic mentoring programs to benefit the middle-schoolers and provide them with an authentic NCAA student athlete experience. The camp was free to students and provided 60 hours of classroom education and 20 hours of football and fitness.
For our Detroit PAL football players, the first week started off with a surprise visit from University of Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. Coach Harbaugh met the student athletes at the PAL office and rode the bus with them to Ann Arbor. The kids had the opportunity to ask him questions and for advice. Of the 58 PAL student athletes to attend the camp, one young man was greatly impacted by Coach Harbaugh and his words of wisdom. “The advice I received from Coach Harbaugh is that it’s important to get an education and that if you’re going to be part of a team and play football, it’s important to have good grades,” said Robert Wynn, a participant at the camp. They were met at the Big House by 6 marines, 4 hand-picked Detroit Public School teachers, and 26 University of Michigan football student-athletes that would be helping run the camp for the next two weeks.
The kids, from 20 different schools in Detroit, were given name tags, uniforms, and their own locker in the varsity locker room so they could all become one team. They then spent two weeks coming to camp, going to classes, and learning new football skills. The boys read an entire book while in class so they could improve on their reading and vocabulary and they were taught innovative and fun math memorization skills. The academic portion of this camp was extremely successful, with scores drastically improving from the first day to the last day. The kids were able to learn many important lessons on and off the field. “I learned that it is important to have leadership skills and that academics are very important,” said Robert, “Athletics may not be a long-term thing, but when you get your education, that can be your life-long attribute.”
On the last day of the camp, each player was able to invite their family down to the stadium. Every player had the opportunity to run through the football tunnel and onto the field while the marching band played “Hail to the Victors”, a memory they won’t soon forget!
“I had always hoped for an affordable camp that addressed the total child, but the Michigan Youth Impact Program went above and beyond my expectations, “ said Robert’s parents, “Now my boys are extra inspired to work hard in the classroom and on the field to get into a top notch four-year university.”