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Three rising high schoolers created Volley4Change to help address the injustices they saw firsthand while playing youth sports.

“Volley4Change is an initiative to address the inequalities that exist within volleyball, particularly the financial and local barriers that prevent many black girls from excelling in the sport,” said co-founder Meg Houseworth.

The fledgling nonprofit organization aims to help girls overcome racial and economic barriers to entry into competitive volleyball, the second most popular sport for girls in the United States, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Houseworth, a varsity volleyball player and future senior at Evanston Township High School, and Margaret Adams, also a rising senior at ETHHS, joined Cherie Animashaun, who will be a senior at Niles West High School, to launch the summer. Volley4Change camp, “hoping to give girls from all backgrounds the chance to become high school volleyball players,” Animashaun wrote in a letter to RoundTable.

On Saturday 30th July, Volley4Change campers and coaches gathered at Clark Street Beach.

“This is our last day of the tournament – a day at the beach and a little luck celebrating what we’ve created – and having all the girls here is so special,” Houseworth said, adding that even the girls who didn’t. part of the camp were invited to join in the fun.

The camp was held from 10:00 to 12:00 on Tuesdays and Fridays in July in Mason Park.

“We had outdoor nets on the grass and coaches who mainly helped middle school-aged girls to develop skills and sportsmanship within a team. … We had quite a large audience, so we expanded the age range. Our youngest is a rising fourth grader and our oldest players are going to sixth grade, ”Adams said.

They spread the word on the pitch on their Volley4Change Instagram account. Interested families can fill out a Google form that was sent to middle school students. Information about the program was also sent to middle school physical education teachers.

The three teenage organizers all played high school volleyball at ETHHS, although Animashaun and Adams no longer play competitively. Animashaun, who moved from ETHS to Niles West after her sophomore year, is also the founder of Her Rising Initiative, a nonprofit that works with programs in Evanston and Chicago to uplift students, athletes and immigrants.

Their shared experience, as Animashaun wrote in its letter to the RoundTable, is that volleyball becomes “more segregated at the high school level, as competitive players all engage in club volleyball, which can cost in the $ 3,000- $ 3,000 range. 10,000 per season, creating a barrier for low-middle income families ”.

Club volley is made up of independent organizations that train student-athletes in the sport of volleyball so that they can continue to compete during their school’s off-season. Clubs rent gym space and time for workouts and have administrative costs that include recruiting girls to play at their club. Trial fees, tournament admission fees, and travel expenses further increase the cost of participation.

There is evidence that the gap in access to youth sports is widening, mainly due to the skyrocketing costs of year-round training programs that have made youth sport a $ 19 billion a year industry in the country. United States, according to WinterGreen Research, a market research firm that follows the industry.

The cost of club volleyball is out of reach for many low- and middle-income families, and many girls are discounting a sport they love.

With over 450,000 attendees, volleyball has seen the most steady increase in participation among women’s high school sports over the past 50 years, surpassing basketball as the second most popular women’s sport in U.S. girls’ outdoor track and field. continues to rank No. 1 in popularity, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Volley4Change was funded by a community building grant from Evanston Cradle to Career. There were 23 participants in the camp.

“We absolutely want to continue the initiative,” Houseworth said. “We hope that in the winter, when it is the low season for middle school volleyball, we can provide the girls with scholarship funds to devote themselves to club volleyball for free. We are looking to communicate with local volleyball club teams to provide scholarships to girls. We will also try to keep some gyms open in Evanston community centers or at ETHHS. “

“The grant was the factor …” Adams said. “… this has even allowed us to facilitate this,” Houseworth said, completing Adams’s sentence.

“We are very grateful to Cradle to Career and Ms. Kim [Kimberly Holmes-Ross, Director of Community Engagement at Evanston Cradle to Career],” said Houseworth.

“It was great,” Animashaun added.

“It is encouraging to know that these girls can experience volleyball in a way that we did as girls and help them develop their skills and talents,” said Adams.

“We are also trying to get the younger girls of our [volleyball] programs at ETHS and Niles West to take the field forward,” Animashaun said.

Many camp participants were eager to talk about their experiences in the program. A common thread was their appreciation for the experience and skills they acquired. The following are excerpts from interviews with eight Volley4Change campers:

“The field has been good since the first time I went there,” said Jada S.

“I made new friends. I learned to serve, bump and set. I had a lot of fun and I wish more,” said Dasha T.

“This field has been a really good experience – an opportunity to make new friends and learn new volleyball techniques and improve everything you need,” said Vivian M.

“I loved the pitch. It was great! The coaches were very enthusiastic, nice and supportive. I learned a lot and also improved a lot of things. I liked the way the camp is free because some people can’t afford a lot of camps. It was a great experience, “said Olivia P.

“I thought this camp was really fun. We made new friends and the coaches were nice. It was easy to talk to them, “said Bailey S.

“I really like the pitch. I made a lot of new friends and learned a lot more technical about volleyball and honed my skills, “said Jasmyn W.

I thought it was a good experience and it helped me improve in volleyball. It was a very nice environment to be in because it made you feel like it was OK if you’re wrong, “said Meri C.

“I have learned new things. I learned to serve, bump and set better, ”said Hannah P., the youngest camper on the program.

Several parents also dropped out of the day’s climax celebration at the beach. Mychal Mitchell, an independent film producer, thanked the organizers and volunteers for working to ensure the camp’s success. “I love seeing my daughter, Vivian, participate in this program,” Mitchell said. “Being a former athlete myself, outside of religion and family, there is nothing better than sport.

“I commend her for her drive and her enthusiasm to be a part of everything about volleyball,” Mitchell said of her daughter. “And I’m glad these young [manager] are trying to inspire others. If my daughter can be a part of whatever they are doing, I want her to participate. And we live here, so we love Evanston and we love the beach. “

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