Rising Stars high on education

Sunday, February 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:59 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Few sports programs for children go to the length that Rising Stars Sports Association does to make education a priority for players.

In December, the year-old sports association started an education campaign that encourages young players to excel in school and to learn outside class. Players on each of five teams are competing to win one of five computers donated by Frito Lay/Quaker Oats, where Rising Stars cofounder Ray Magruder works.

Rising Stars also encourages community service. Players recently collected 113 pounds of food for the Central Missouri Food Bank. For their second project, the kids will hold a fund-raising basketball free-throw and shooting competition today for Asian tsunami relief. The fundraiser will be at 12:30 p.m. in Southwell Complex at Columbia College. Registration is $10 per entrant.

The non-profit association gives 55 third- through seventh-graders of all income and ability levels the opportunity to play basketball. Those who can’t afford the program get scholarships.

Rising Stars’ focus on education sets it apart from other sports-oriented youth organizations, Magruder said. While the group wants kids to have fun and learn to play basketball, it mainly wants to reinforce the idea that education takes precedence. That’s a particularly important value to instill before players go to high school, where the pressure to focus on sports can become much greater, leaders believe.

The computers, Magruder said, are not only an incentive to do well in school but also “a means to enhancing their education and allowing them to have a tool that they can call their own as a reward.”

Each team’s computer winner will be chosen by a drawing, but players raise their odds by earning chances. They can do so by getting good grades, for example, or showing improvement in grades, reading age-appropriate books or writing articles for Kids Sports News. Winners will be drawn at the end of the association’s season in August.

Julius Dunn helps coach his son’s 10-and-under Rising Stars team.

“We’ve been pushing the education program to get kids to understand that education is the way to go,” he said, adding that the focus is not solely on the classroom. “Education is not just in school. Education can be everywhere.”

The computer contest also gets parents involved.

“One of the constant challenges is to get the parents more involved and being active members in the association, instead of just coming to sit in the stands and watch a ballgame,” Magruder said. “This is an opportunity (for a parent) to be an active member of our association; having fun, encouraging their children to bring in their report cards, challenging each of them day in and day out to read more books, (to) write an article for Kids Sports.”

Ten-year-old Logan Moore said he came up with the idea after watching a news story about a boy who gave back all his Christmas toys because of the tsunami. He wants to raise $500 but said “it doesn’t really matter.”

“We’ll get as much as we can,” he said. “We just want to help out.”

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