One of the great byproducts of our community programming is bringing together young athletes of diverse economic zones. A catchphrase I enjoy is that our programs “blend zip codes.” Ultimately, sports participation is blind to color and class. By playing with one another, kids usually discover they have much more in common than their social hierarchy may dictate.
No one in our community spends more time trying to bridge the gap in youth engagement than Frank Williams, the Executive Director of the White Plains Youth Bureau (WPYB). For nearly 30 years, Frank has led an organization whose main mission is to help youth grow into successful adults. The WPYB connects with over 2,000 children and young adults and sponsors over 50 programs including after school, employment, leadership, substance abuse prevention, and community building. Frank leads with kindness and an unparalleled commitment to the community which he serves and loves. He is the everywhere man. There is never a time where he is too busy to visit a program, watch his students perform, or attend a meeting or event to advocate for the WPYB.
Upon our introduction over 10 years ago, Frank gave Backyard Sports an opportunity to work with the children of White Plains. We have since collaborated on recreational after school programming, tennis offerings, and the Bits N’ Pieces summer camp which gives our BYS high school students a chance to serve as site sport leaders for over 150 campers.
Two years ago, Frank asked us to participate in a program called “Bridges” where he wanted to foster a talking group of teens from a variety of towns and villages across our local area. The teens would meet on a monthly basis to discuss issues which impacted them regardless of their race, religion, or economic circumstance. Frank believes that our most serious issues will be solved with serious and soulful communication. If our young people today do not learn to communicate with one another as teens, how can they be expected to speak to one another as adults? Issues discussed include: gun violence on school campuses, social media and cyber bullying, affirmative action, and preferential treatment in college admissions.
I have attended these monthly sessions for two years. I remain overwhelmed by the power, passion, and honesty of the students that participate. The conversations reveal a mutual respect of perspective regardless of background and a tolerance of opinion because each respondent feels that their voice is honored.
This roundtable is a small sample of Frank’s handiwork. His tireless work to bring people together and make life better inspires Backyard Sports and countless other agencies and individuals in our community. We are thankful to Frank Williams and remain committed to helping him and the Youth Bureau make an impact on young people.
Head Coach, Backyard Sports Cares