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Play It Smart Program Wins Grant From U.S. D.O.E

August 5, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Aug. 5, 2004 -- The U. S. Department of Education will announce a multi million-dollar, five-year grant to the Play It Smart program, which is credited with dramatically increasing high school football players’ graduation rates and college enrollment. A program of the National Football Foundation, Play It Smart was conceptualized by the NFF Center for Youth Development Through Sport at Springfield College (NFF Center), which also trains the program’s leaders. The announcement is scheduled for August 9, 2004, 9 a.m., at Timken High School, Canton, Ohio.

The grant will support national expansion of Play It Smart. NFF Center Director Al Petitpas, who is also Springfield College professor of psychology, can be reached for interviews by calling Springfield College Media Relations Director Claire Burns; or beginning Aug. 9, Springfield College Sports Information Director John White (numbers above).

Student athletes participating in Play It Smart, which currently operates in 88 high schools and reaches 7,000 football players from 55 cities in underserved communities, have achieved a 97 percent rate of high school graduation and an 81 percent rate of college enrollment.

The program trains individuals to be caring adult mentors for student athletes. It also involves student athletes in academic support and positive peer pressure to achieve good grades and scores on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs), and college acceptance. Participating student athletes also perform community service.

Through the grant, Play It Smart will add 60 new schools from across the country and expand the program to boys and girls sports and extracurricular activities other than football at 20 schools currently in the program. The grant also will support dissemination of the project’s findings to every high school in the United States. In addition, it will enable the NFF Center to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to further refine the program’s model and enhance training of the program’s mentors.

According to Petitpas, “It’s a common misconception that individuals learn life skills by simply participating in sport. Our experience shows that, if you engage young people in an activity that they love, surround them with caring adult mentors, create the right kind of learning environment, and provide them with opportunities to use their transferable skills in the classroom and community, some truly wonderful things can happen.”

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