For years Detroit PAL has worked tirelessly to produce leaders and responsible team players for Detroit. Mr. Terry Whitfield is a testament to the success of that tireless work as he serves as the project coordinator for Partnership for Youth, a collaborative of youth serving agencies who work to strengthen the systems of support and opportunities that affect youth ages 11-18. The goal of this initiative is to work together with neighborhood agencies and organizations in supporting youth to develop themselves, their leadership, and their ability to exercise control over their environments. Even though he may not have always known that he would grow to work for the betterment of young people, the seed was planted in him in 1984 when he joined the PAL community.
Terry’s PAL career began in 1984 when he was 6 years old joining the Detroit Yankees t-ball team. He attended the St. Gerard’s School kindergarten through eighth grade where he played basketball for 3 of his middle school years. Young Terry would go on to take up football for PAL’s Westside Broncos at ages 8-14. He remarks that PAL helped him to know what he wanted to do when he started high school and college as he played football through those years.
Mr. Whitfield obtained his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Western Michigan University, then his master’s degree in youth development at Michigan State University. All through his studies, football continued to be an important factor in his life as it was the day his father first asked him if he wanted to play the sport.
When Terry was 8 years old, his father asked him if he’d ever thought about playing football. With a shrug, he decided he would try it. He recalls his first day of football practice doing difficult exercises in the hot sun being almost torturous. He came to realize that being a member of the football team gave him a foundation for who he is today. It taught him discipline and how to work on a team.
PAL offered a particular joy in the sport that other teams he played for did not: the opportunity to play football purely for the sake of loving the game and having fun. Playing for Detroit PAL was comparatively more fun for Terry because he and his teammates were not burdened with the pressure of performing for the sake of scholarships or rankings. Football provided him with an opportunity to manage his emotions constructively without knowing it.
Mr. Whitfield believes team sports shape young people in the most positive ways. They provide structure, discipline, exercise, and a safe environment.
As an alumnus, Terry Whitfield is a great supporter of PAL, what it stands for, and how it can change the trajectory of, not just the life of an individual child, but of families and communities.