Today's guest blogger is Jacqueline Schoninger, AmeriCorps member of the Harry's Team serving at Isaac Newton Middle School. 


On Sunday December 21st, Brooklyn Nets Assist partnered with City Year and invited students and parents of Isaac Newton Middle School (INMS) to join in on the action as the Brooklyn Nets took on the Detroit Pistons.

For many of the students that attend INMS, basketball is tantamount to food and water, the very sustenance of life. Recognizing this, the faculty and staff of INMS do their utmost to integrate basketball into as many curricula and activities as possible, while still retaining an academic focus. We also use the sport to incentivize students to improve their behavior and attendance, as well as their performance in their daily classes.

In order to boost attendance, we hold a morning basketball tournament every Tuesday and Wednesday each week; in order to play, the kids need to show up well before school starts, ensuring that they will be in class prepared and on-time. We strive to improve our students’ math scores by finding time for them to play Math Hoops, an innovative and meticulously crafted game which uses fundamental and crucial mathematical concepts through real-world application in the form of player and game statistics. Through engagement with Math Hoops, students learn to see how math is hidden in plain sight everywhere, including their favorite sport. We also play 1-on-1 matches on the court during recess, helping to build relationships, and keep the kids active.

Our partnership with Brooklyn Nets Assist is thus only the latest (and most exciting) in a robust line of superb basketball-based initiatives established here at INMS. But not just any kid receives the privilege of attending the games; we pay close attention to improvements in all aspects of their academic efforts, including attendance and coursework, but primarily behavior. Students who have showed improvement are informed that they will be afforded an opportunity to attend the game so long as they maintain their good behavior, and abide by a set of directives tailored to each child’s areas of potential growth. If they demonstrate excellence in all categories we send them off to see a game, all for free!

Fifteen students were invited to the last game, and those who could attend had an absolute blast - we couldn’t be happier with the results, nor more grateful for the generosity of Brooklyn Nets Assist. We have two more games lined up for the time being, and we’re already paying close attention to the performance of several students who we think are capable of proving they deserve to attend!  We are all very excited to see what they can do. And as word spreads about this new initiative, we at INMS are confident that these students will serve as powerful role models for their classmates, who will no doubt be inspired to step up their own game, all for the love of the game.


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