The LEAD Center For Youth Aims To Combat Crime, Poverty, And Racism While Empowering Atlanta’s Underserved Youth

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An Atlanta staple has provided underserved youth with opportunities to thrive and shine through sports for 17 years. Those founding principles continue to empower young people through play while helping them gain necessary life skills.

The LEAD Center for Youth participants walk away with life skills like showing up for school, one another, and, most importantly, how to show up for themselves. Thousands of children have benefited from the program for nearly two decades, Atlanta News First reports.

“We use the sport of baseball for boys and tennis for girls to help them overcome crime, poverty, and racism,” CJ Stewart, founder of the LEAD Center for Youth, told the outlet.

For Stewart, baseball became an outlet for him, allowing him to build a life despite some of his struggles growing up. Ultimately, he would go on to play professionally. Today, he’s providing children who look like him in the community with the resources to have the same opportunities.

“Everybody experiences stress. When that stress is not buffered, it becomes trauma. It changes the way you think,” said Stewart. “It changes the way you act. To be able to have access to healthy buffers, that is expensive.”

He added, “Sports are a proven antidote to relieving stress. A lot of the kids we are serving live in communities where that is not feasible.”

The LEAD Center works alongside students in the Atlanta Public School System living at or below the poverty line. Children in the program must maintain good behavior, grades, and attendance to stay in. The organization also provides transportation so students can get to and from practice. In addition to sports training, the LEAD Center offers mentoring and academic support.

The commitment of the LEAD Center to the youth of Atlanta is evident in its long-term impact. Many alumni of the program have gone on to achieve personal and professional success, and attribute their growth to the skills and support they received there.

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