LOWELL — Acting Superintendent Barry Golner is pleased to share that the Lowell Police Youth Services Program, in collaboration with the Afro-American Community Collaborative and Merrimack Valley Flag Football, hosted a free flag football clinic for Lowell youth.
Approximately 60 Lowell youth in grades 5 to 8 participated in the clinic from Aug. 16-18 at Cawley Stadium, with T-shirts, flags, water, snacks, and even a post-clinic BBQ provided.
The same age groups are also invited to participate in a month-long Flag Football League being organized in October by the same group of community partners.
Students at the clinic got to meet and talk to former Lowell High School football star John Blake Galvin, who went on to play for Boston College and then the Jets and Vikings in the NFL, and Leon Powe, a former power forward for the Boston Celtics who shared in the team’s 2008 championship. Lowell High School Football Coach Shyheim Cullen also attended and spoke to the students.
The program is one of several initiatives organized by the Lowell Police Youth Services Program, which seeks to create opportunities for all city youth. The program oversees free after-school activities, athletics, and other ventures that emphasize health and wellness.
Lowell Police employees and other volunteers who staffed the program include Sgt. Mike Marshall, Sgt. Joe Kelly, Officer Korey Rudy, Officer Knud-Henry Louis, Officer Emaly Bouasri, and School Resource Officers Kyle Van, Jose Santiago and Dominic Lessieur.
Vic Viktorov, from D1 Training, which has a location in Burlington, also assisted on the first day of the clinic and setup an NFL-style combine for the students to see how they performed at a 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and other exercises. Program Director Peter Faticanti assigned numerous staff members from the Lowell Recreation Department to assist with the clinic.
Powe spoke to students and asked them to stand if they struggled with grades in school, before telling students how he too struggled with grades for a time and had to work harder in class so that he could play basketball.
Powe encouraged students to work hard both in school and on the field, because an education will prepare them for life even if they don’t become professional athletes.
“I came up in the foster care system, in and out of foster care my whole life, single parent home, and people telling me I wasn’t going to do nothing and wasn’t going to be nothing. But I didn’t get mad at them. I got mad at myself and took a look at myself and said what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do to be successful? What are you going to do to prove them wrong,” Powe said. “I said I’m just going to put the work in. I’m going to put the work in and I’m going to make sure something happens.”
“The moral of the story is that you all should shoot for the moon,” Powe said.
Mayon Mitchell and Kayla Balamotis, both commissioners of Merrimack Valley Flag Football, said they got involved because they wanted to help provide opportunities for young boys and girls.
Balamotis, who has worked to grow a local flag football league for women, said she didn’t discover flag football until she was 22, and instantly fell in love with the sport.
“When I was in middle school I had never even heard of flag football, which is why I wanted to be a part of helping create this clinic — so we could offer a sport to the younger generation with hopes that kids will fall in love with the sport and continue to play,” Balamotis said.
Mayon Mitchell said he got into a lot of trouble as a kid growing up in Lowell’s Lower Highlands neighborhood because he often had nothing to do, and because gang influences were strong. But after connecting with a mentor at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell, he found structure and a better path through sports.
“It’s important to keep these kids busy to keep their minds off those negative influences that never stop trying to attract them,” Mayon Mitchell said.
Rob Mitchell, of the Afro-American Community Collaborative, said the AACC got involved because the organization believes in the power of sport to bring people and communities together.
“I’ve seen firsthand how sports can break down barriers and create opportunities for people of all backgrounds,” Rob Mitchell said. “Our clinic’s primary objectives were cultivating a fun and inviting atmosphere for our youth, while instructing them on basic flag football techniques. We strive to foster a sense of community and healthy competition while teaching the sport’s essential skills.”
In addition to the clinic, boys and girls in Grade 5 to Grade 8 will also be able to participate in a Lowell Youth Flag Football Neighborhood Challenge League this October.
Teams will practice together twice weekly, and then play a tournament at the end of the month. For more information, or to sign up for the league, click here.
“I want to express, on behalf of the Lowell Police Department, our gratitude to organizations like the Afro-American Community Collaborative and Merrimack Valley Flag Football, which have partnered with the Lowell Police Youth Services Program to create opportunities for Lowell youth to have healthy fun while building confidence,” said Superintendent Golner. “Since we began the program last year we have found numerous community partners who have assisted us, and the willingness of so many people in Lowell to help support our youth is a testament to the collaborative spirit that has long been a strength of our city.”
About the Afro-American Community Collaborative
The Afro-American Community Collaborative (AACC) is a grassroots, non-partisan, and 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization committed to creating opportunities and mobilizing resources to build healthy, sustainable, and thriving communities. The AACC seeks to inspire and motivate people to become more actively involved in their communities. AACC provides space for meetings and events that reflect the interests of the community, the local organizations and businesses that serve our residents, and the organizations and businesses that serve an even broader community. To learn more about the AACC, visit: https://aacommunitycollab.com/.
About Merrimack Valley Flag Football
Merrimack Valley Flag Football was established in the fall of 2012 and offers flag football leagues for men, women and kids, with multiple divisions available in the Lowell area year round. For more information on Merrimack Valley Flag Football, visit: http://www.mvffl.com/.
About the Lowell Police Youth Services Program
The Lowell Police Youth Services Program seeks to create opportunities for all city youth to participate in free after school activities, athletics, and other ventures that emphasize health and wellness, while also experiencing positive interactions with police officers. The Lowell Police Youth Services Program is open to partnering with all community stakeholders.
For more information on the Lowell Police Youth Services Program, email: LPDYouthServices@lowellma.gov. To make a donation to the Lowell Police Youth Services Program via the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, click here.
To follow the Lowell Police Youth Services Program on Instagram, click here.