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Honoring the National Youth Sports Program

Location: Washington, DC

HONORING THE NATIONAL YOUTH SPORTS PROGRAM -- (House of Representatives - July 13, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Kind) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I rise today as national cochair to honor the outstanding work of the National Youth Sports Program in my home State of Wisconsin and the 200 programs throughout the Nation and to recognize the essential role NYSP plays in children's lives during those crucial weeks during the summertime.

For 35 years, NYSP has brought organized athletics and academic courses in math and science into the summer routines of low-income children aged 10 to 16. For 5 weeks, children learn leadership skills and work to develop strong moral character through sports. Furthermore, NYSP provides students with education in substance abuse prevention, career instruction and perhaps their first comprehensive physical. In addition, students receive a hot, well-balanced USDA-approved meal each day.

As a former college quarterback and a father of two little boys, I know the opportunity that sports can have on positively impacting the lives of our children. Thanks to NYSP, a soccer field, a basketball court, a swimming pool turns into classrooms. The lessons in these innovative classrooms are civility, teamwork and responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, it is our duty as policymakers to preserve these vital opportunities. It is in the interest of our children and our country to do so.

For proof of the importance of the National Youth Sports Program, I invite the Members to look at two participating institutions that I had the opportunity to visit recently from my home district in western Wisconsin.

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, over 300 children participate in NYSP each summer. In addition to excellent athletic and academic instruction from a dedicated staff, these children have participated in a ropes course to foster higher self-esteem, have been treated by local physicians and dentists free of charge, participated in the DARE and GREAT programs with local police officers, and have painted over graffiti found on public property. The NYSP at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is enriching the lives of low-income children while simultaneously enriching the community as a whole. I would like to take this opportunity to thank program director Mary Beth Vahala and the many community volunteers, including Dr. Richard Foss and Dr. Holly Grimslid for their integral role in the success of NYSP at La Crosse.

The NYSP at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, directed by Dr. Bill Harms and Mr. Tom Pratt, has been consistently ranked as one of the top summer programs in the entire Nation. Every summer, over 500 children learn to live the NYSP creed, "to walk tall, talk tall and stand tall." In addition to a wonderful selection of standard athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, students spend time each day studying math and science in an effort to teach the importance of these subjects at a young age. Under the excellent tutelage of coordinators Ms. Sunshine McFaul and Mr. Jayson Leslie, students discover the value of math and science in their lives. I also want to thank and commend NYSP's national director Dr. Gale Wiedow for his terrific leadership of these 200 programs throughout our Nation.

Mr. Speaker, these two fine programs in my home district in western Wisconsin are indicative of the quality of NYSP as a whole; and I am thankful for the dedicated staff and volunteers that make it happen. Unfortunately, the President proposed to eliminate NYSP program funding in the next fiscal year's budget. Fortunately, however, NYSP has enjoyed wide bipartisan support in Congress.

I also want to thank my good friend and colleague from Buffalo, New York (Mr. Quinn) for cochairing the National Youth Sports Program with me in recent years. He has been a terrific advocate of youth generally and of NYSP specifically. I appreciate his hard work in going to bat for this program. He will be sorely missed in this Chamber, and we all wish him a happy retirement.

Tonight I stand with thousands of children to thank the Committee on Appropriations for fully funding NYSP, and I urge my colleagues to remember the value of athletics and academics in our children's lives and the important role NYSP plays in delivering both during the summer months.

Mr. Speaker, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, once famously said, "Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit." The National Youth Sports Program teaches children not to quit, and it is our responsibility not to quit on them.

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