A volunteer who teaches English to refugee children at Crawford High School shared his experiences coaching a girls basketball team with an ESPN.com blog posted yesterday. His name is Lee Gerston, and here’s what he wrote:

These students — many with the help of the [International Rescue Committee] — arrived in San Diego between July and September 2007. They came to America with little to no understanding of English. To accelerate their learning curve, the students come to my class after school, Monday to Thursday, for an extra 90 minutes of English lessons. On Fridays, the remaining staff and I loosen things up. One teacher runs a “Girls Group,” where girls can gossip, read magazines and make arts and crafts. Another teacher plays soccer with the boys. And I coach the girls basketball team. [Writer’s Note: At first, all the girls were participating in the crafts program, but a few of them asked, “How come we can’t we play basketball?” The IRC staff welcomed the request and has watched the number of girls playing increase to as many as 17.]

This year, the girls basketball team is made up of girls from Sudan, Somalia, and Burma. Very few of these girls had exposure to any sport in their homelands; none had any experience with basketball. Over the course of the last two years, the girls’ skills have improved considerably, although it is not reflected in the win-loss column. Through two years, the girls have yet to win a basketball game. But they have certainly gained more than they have lost. They have made cross-cultural friendships that go beyond language. They have learned a game they can keep with them the rest of their lives. And for now, every week, they have the opportunity to play a game they are still learning, but definitely love.

Gerston also included a YouTube video of the girls:

Check out our story from earlier this week about a City Heights charter school that caters to East African students.


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