To the amazement of their teachers, classmates, and especially themselves, a remarkable change has come over 14 Boys Town Jerusalem High School students. “It happened so quickly,” marvels instructor Netanel Ra’anan, who also serves as a BTJ dorm father. “Suddenly, these boys began paying attention in class, working together, and taking responsibility.” The source of the dramatic change? A new after-school basketball program called “Hoops for Kids.” Thanks to a generous donor, Boys Town Jerusalem now has a state-of-the-art gym which most certainly made this program all the more successful.

Basketball gives boys skills for life

“I’m not just coaching basketball,” admits Hoops for Kids coach Yitzchak Kowalsky, “I’m giving boys tools for life: cooperation, teamwork, confidence and leadership are inherent in basketball skills. It’s clear that these kids are from difficult backgrounds, but they’re tremendously motivated. As we work on their dribbling, defending, and shooting skills, I see in their eyes how excited they are to be here.”

We’ve seen improvement within weeks

Aviv,* a ninth-grader, is painfully short for his age. “He picked up a basketball for the first time just weeks ago when the Hoops for Kids program began,” notes Netanel Raanan. “This diligent kid suddenly turned out to be a very talented shooter. He’s just thrilled to be gaining the respect and encouragement of his friends.”

The Hoops for Kids program is made possible by private donations

BTJ’s new Hoops for Kids program is earmarked for 9th through 12th graders who live in the school’s dormitory. The weekly sessions are made possible by private donations.

Ira Stern, director of the fast-growing Israeli Hoops for Kids project, stressed its critical benefits for disadvantaged youth. “Basketball is the great equalizer, giving kids confidence and life skills. Our coaches are all trained teachers who give students not just a basketball message, but a life message.” Stern noted that each participant is given the gift of his own basketball and a sports shirt. “We’re delighted to be at Boys Town Jerusalem, a phenomenal organization, and to team up to create a better future for these great kids.”

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