IN THE PAST WE HAVE WRITTEN SEVERAL ARTICLES ABOUT VARIOUS NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS WHOSE MISSIONS ARE TO TRANSFORM AND ENRICH THE LIVES OF OUR CHILDREN.
We have written about The Special Equestrians of the Treasure Coast, The Indian River Equestrian Foundation, The Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County and The Gifford Youth Achievement Center.
(All these articles are in our archives.)
Though only in its second year, here is yet another: Crossover Mission.
Crossing over is the process of crossing from one side to the other. The crossover represents the transition to a better, God-centered life. It represents a crossover from a low mentality to principled living. From weakness to strength. From poverty to stability. From hate to love. From self-centered to community centered. (Source: Crossover Mission website.)
Crossover Mission is the brainchild of Antoine L. Jennings, founder and president; together with co-founder Catherine de Schouwer, Vice President and Executive Director.
Catherine de Schouwer and Antoine L. Jennings
(Photo by Katherine Joline Tucker)
Antione had crossed over himself. Growing up in Gifford, he and his twin brother were surrounded by disinterested family members who provided little supervision and support. They became street boys, learning to fight, steal, and survive at a young age.
One good thing remained constant. Basketball. Antoine and his brother played often and whenever possible. They were good and the community knew it. Opportunities came through basketball, but a lack of money, transportation and support shut the doors. In the end, important and potentially life-changing college opportunities were lost because of ignorance, poor attitudes, shame and bad advice.
Antione had a transformational experience several years ago. God spared him and there began a new direction and the real purpose in his life. He says that “in the black culture, you are not a man if you let someone get one up on you without retaliation. I made peace with my enemies while many eyes were watching me. I became a real father to my son and daughter. I refocused on my job and worked hard to better myself. I joined a church. I married the mother of my children.”
Basketball was key to his transformation. “It is the great passion of my life. I am making a difference in the lives of misdirected young lives like mine, by using it as a strategic tool to help children from low-income, primarily African American families to crossover.”
In basketball, the crossover is an effective offensive technique which involves faking to one side to throw the defender off and make space for a move.
Crossover Move in Basketball
Rather than focus on academics first and activities next, Antione’s vision was to focus on activities first and academics next.
With his reputation for basketball in the Gifford community, what started as a group of 10 children from low income, primarily African American families, who wanted to get together and play basketball with Antione, quickly grew to 40 in two weeks.
Over time, after engaging children with basketball, Antione and Catherine de Schouwer added the academic component, by attracting tutors and mentors to work with the children. There are now 40 volunteers to tutor and mentor the children. These volunteers are retired attorneys, teachers, business owners and even students from upper middle class families who just want to volunteer and help.
They get to know each child on a one-to-one basis to evaluate what makes them tick. They spend time with them and determine what their grades look like. They build a relationship and add some structure to it.
They work with the children each week, training them in basketball fundamentals and fitness, supporting their academics with focus on schoolwork, mathematics, literacy, and writing. They mentor students through chacter training, positive development of mindsets, etiquette, confident self-expression, and exposure to the broader world.
Then they keep track of the children through “character accountability,” where, for example a child may be doing well in school but when their parent(s) get home they report that they can’t find him/her; or the child is not doing his assigned chores. In these cases Crossover Mission takes a privilege away from the child to help them learn responsibility.
Crossover Mission now has an academic curriculum driven by Laura Willis Ms LMHC, who for 18 years has operated is a Marriage & Family Counselors company at Vero Beach, Florida. Ms. Willis has established an “Academic Mentoring Program,” where students take a pledge to learn mathematics and how to read. The Learning Alliance of Vero Beach provides great assistance in providing principles on how to teach children to read.
The children enrolled with Crossover Mission are in an eight to 14 age group. There are a little over 100 children enrolled in the program; of which 42 are active. The demographics consists of 70% African American children and 30% white and Latino. It is a year-round program.
Some children participate in the program even though they do not play basketball. They just like being part of the program. Their mentors might find out one of the children just wants to operate the scoreboard.
Unfortunately, being a start-up, Crossover Mission has no facilities or even office space. Initially the volunteers had to drive their personal cars to pick-up the children; but they were recently given a 15 passenger bus by John’s Island.
They utilize the gymnasium at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center and the tutoring is conducted at the Storm Grove Middle School and the Community Church of Vero Beach.
60% of the volunteers come from the Community Church.
Antoine says that “it has been a difficult journey I can tell you. We have had to deal with a lack of parental cooperation, negative mental mindsets and the difficult of getting children to believe in themselves. It takes a lot of time to see any kind of results.”
Asked what Antione needs for Crossover Mission to get to the next level, his first answer was “more volunteers. We need what all start-ups need. We need office space, equipment such as basket balls, pens, paper and more gym time. We have received a couple of grants but need more. In the long term we need our own facility.”
As part of Crossover Mission’s effort to motivate their children to excel in school and to provide opportunities to see beyond our world here in Vero Beach, they organized a trip to the Amway Center in Orlando to see the Orlando Magic play the Portland Trailblazers on December 18, 2015, this coming Friday!
Only 18 Crossover student players were selected to join in the trip and they had to earn their way on the bus through the Three A’s. Academics, Attitude and Attendance.
They considered a formula for selection which included highest and most improved grades, weighing all aspects of school attendance and performance; as well as performance and training spirit during Crossover tutoring, basketball training and tournaments.
Crossover Mission extends a special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. William Harris who organized and helped sponsor the NBA trip. The 18 Crossover children will be sitting in corporate box seating and enjoying delicious treats along the way on their Magic Carpet ride to Orlando.
They are grateful for the support of many generous donors and volunteers who help Crossover Mission make a difference in chldren’s lives.
Antoine L. Jennings
Please visit Crossover Mission at http://www.crossovermission.com