MLL Students Develop Skills and Make Friends at After-school Sports Camp

On six consecutive Thursdays during this spring, over 50 students in grades one through five came together in the Sports Introduction for Multilingual Learners (MLL) Program after-school camp. In the course of her work for the Arlington Public Schools, Program Leader Cindy Sheridan-Curran had discovered that it is often difficult for MLL students to participate in activities outside of school. She came to believe, in her words, “...if we could create an opportunity for these young people to experience different sports in a familiar environment and highlight town programs we might help build a bridge to community activities.” 

Ms. Sheridan-Curran first discussed her idea with local friends Kelley Grealish Kelly, Director and Chairperson of the Danny Kelly Foundation, and Lori Talanian, who assisted with defining the vision and creating a plan. This was the beginning of what has been, and continues to be, a true community collaboration. Arlington Public Schools MLL Director Carla Bruzzese, Director of Transportation Steve Angelo, and  two members of Arlington Community Education (ACE)–Director Jen Rothenberg and Adult Program Manager Andrea Loeb-next helped with processes and programming. The Danny Kelly (DK4) Foundation, provided a grant.

Removing the barriers that might prevent a student from participating was of primary importance. Arlington Community Education developed and supported registration. Information about the program was distributed to the families by the MLL staff in each of the seven elementary schools. They also assisted with registration and provided after school supervision for the children waiting for the bus that would take them to Ottoson. Interpreters, snacks, and dinner were provided.

Designed to introduce MLL young people to a variety of local pickup sports, the camp aims to promote social development, teach teamwork, and offer an opportunity for community engagement. It gives the participants a comfortable place to experience and develop sports skills and experience community outside of school hours. The ability to exchange cultures and make friends with their peers while enhancing their English language skills is another benefit of participating. Ms. Sheridan-Curran believes that the camp “...will have a lasting impact on the psycho-social and physical wellbeing of the MLL children who take part.”

The camp involves the students in a different sport each day. This spring’s session, which ran from April 25 to May 30, followed this schedule:

  • Week 1–Soccer
  • Week 2–Basketball
  • Week 3–Football
  • Week 4–Lacrosse
  • Week 5–Street Hockey
  • Week 6–X Games (like Field Day)

Experienced youth and high school coaches led each session, and Hardy Elementary School Physical Education teacher Kathy Ryan developed and ran the X Games. They were supported by volunteers from APS, the Danny Kelly Foundation, Arlington High School students, and members of the Arlington Police and Fire Departments. The sessions were held at Ottoson Middle school and lasted about two hours. At the end of each session, the buses took the young people back to their elementary schools for pick-up.

The sports camp was very popular and Ms. Sheridan-Curran shares that “After our first and second sessions, we had many requests for late registrations as students were reporting back to their friends about how much fun they were having!” APS staff and DK4 volunteers worked with her to “iron out any wrinkles” and everyone is ready to move forward and offer the camp again next year.

It is clear that this has been a labor of love for Ms. Sheridan-Curran. She says, “Pulling this together and then pulling it off has been the most fun I’ve had all year! The support and collaboration from the Danny Kelly Fondation, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington Community Education, APS staff (especially our MLL and Transportation Departments) and AHS students is a great testament to our community.” 

The Danny Kelly Foundation was created to honor the memory of former college hockey player and Arlington Police Department (APD) Lieutenant Danny Kelly who succumbed to cancer in 2022. He was an active supporter of youth sports throughout his life, volunteering as a hockey, baseball, and basketball coach in Arlington. Along with Lieutenant Ron Kerr, Mr. Kelly developed and managed a summer basketball league, coached by APD volunteers, which provided hundreds of kids an opportunity to play, learn, and find community without having to try out or worry if they would be able to play.