NEWARK, NJ – Stephen A. Smith, ESPN commentator and former newspaper columnist; Jenny Vrentas, senior writer for Sports Illustrated; and David Tyree, of the NY Giants, honorees at the 10th anniversary of Write on Sports, each spoke of the impact the program has on middle school youth at the Write on Sports Gala that was held on Oct. 14 at the Newark Club. The mission of Write on Sports, a program that was founded by Byron Yake of West Orange, who is the executive director of WoS, and is a former sports writer and sports editor of the Associated Press, is to teach middle school students to improve their writing by writing about sports.
“Each student receives intensive personal attention in a unique academic program with a teacher/student ratio of one to four,” said Yake.
“This program is practical, it is a sound way to impact a generation,” said Tyree, the New York Giants receiver who knows something about making an impact after making a miraculous catch in Super Bowl XLII
“A big reason why I believe in it so much,” said Vrentas, “. . . is it gives kids that opportunity to find fun in writing by having them write about something that is fun for them—which is sports.”
The Gala not only celebrated a decade of unique programming, but its continuing growth. In 2006, it began with one two-week camp with 24 Montclair students. Over the past 10 years it has held 40 camps in three states, with a total of 900 students participating. In 2015, WoS held eight two-week camps, including a new program at Monmouth University.
In fact, this past July, 31 rising seventh and eighth graders from West Orange completed summer camp with Write On Sports at Montclair State University.
“Each of you here tonight has helped make it possible for more than 900 students to participate the last decade and you validate with your gifts that our future is one of growth,” said Yake.
Representatives from all eight programs: Providence, RI; Goshen, IN; Roselle Catholic High School; Monmouth University; Newark; and Montclair State University, attended the Gala.
Peter King, of Sports Illustrated, Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB), and a WoS trustee, served as Master of Ceremonies.
In addition, Pioneers, folks who helped get the program off the ground, were introduced by Dr. Ada Beth Cutler, a distinguished professor at Montclair State University, who is also a WoS trustee. And, Andy Beutel, of West Orange, a lead WoS teacher, and Paul W. Corliss, who led the effort to start a WoS program at Monmouth University, each paid tribute to the program and its impact on middle school youth.
Stephen A Smith, ESPN commentator and former newspaper columnist, spoke of how he learned to read and write.
“It takes love. It takes support. It takes devotion,” he said. “It takes people who genuinely care for all the right reasons,” and for that I mean for nothing having to do with yourself, that is what a kid notices.”
Among the 170 attendees were a dozen Write on Sports alumni from the past ten years, many of whom have taken a path toward a career in journalism or broadcasting or teaching including 2007 WoS Alumni Molly Rich; Kathy Jackson, a teacher at Edison, who has been a WoS teacher for past eight years; and West Orange resident Shannon Schmidt, the WoS marketing director.
Elisa Varana, parent of Gabby Varano, a high school junior and WoS alumni, said the Write on Sports program changed her daughter’s educational career path and that she is now looking at colleges with strong journalism programs.
Nikia Davis, whose son, Maki, attended WoS camp this past summer, said that her son takes his schoolwork more seriously and wants to be better (academically).