Scholar athletes point to success of BPS “Zone” program

By 
Mallory Smith, Special to the Reporter
May. 30, 2014

A program aimed at improving athletics programs within the Boston Public School system has made strides since its foundation in 2009. The Boston Scholar Athletes program, launched with help from former Mayor Tom Menino and Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish hopes “to improve academic achievement through athletics.”

At an annual fundraising event earlier this month, the BSA program raised more than $2.5 million to support their efforts. Among the 4,000 student athletes who participate in BPS athletics, two 17 year-old Dorchester residents— Shakirat Oseni and Lorla Attivor —were singled out as examples of its success.

Attivor, will be attending UMass Boston in the fall on a full scholarship. Oseni also received a full academic scholarship to UMass Dartmouth. Both currently attend Dorchester Academy.

Oseni, who moved to Dorchester two years ago from Nigeria, played soccer and basketball starting her junior year in high school.

“It was one of the best decisions of my life,” said Oseni, but she faced many challenges while being a student-athlete. “The most challenging thing for me was bringing my GPA up because at times it became overwhelming to play a sport and have all the responsibilities of a student. It required a lot of time management, commitment, and dedication to do it all at the same time.

“But with the help of BSA, I was able to get my homework done before practice and games. BSA also provided me with tutors whenever I was having trouble with a subject.”

The BSA assists students with resource centers housed in individual schools. The centers are called “The Zone”— where student-athletes can get homework help, free notebooks and folders, tutoring sessions, college readiness, and one-on-one help with the college application.
“The Zone has helped me to become a better person in life and accomplish a GPA of 3.8,” said Oseni, who said The Zone became “her second home.”

The goal of this program is to create “a safe quiet environment for all students – not just athletes- to access during the day and after school to complete their homework, get ahead on their studies, and pursue higher education.

Throughout the city there are 19 school based learning centers, which cater to 24 Boston high schools and are also staffed full time. Since they opened their doors in October of 2011, Zone-engaged students have seen increases in average SAT scores, college acceptance rate, and high school graduation rate. Outside of the classroom, The Zone also helps educate student-athletes on topics ranging from employment, community service opportunities, and how to build better relationships with teammates.

Attivor, a volleyball player, is another student-athlete who moved from Worcester to Fields Corner in 2011. She has seen a turn-around in athletics since she started playing for BPS.

“The athletic program has exposed us students to many opportunities in the community. Through the athletic program we have received a lot of support to improve as athletes through amazing coaches and mentors,” said Attivor.

“My BSA facilitator Ms. Mosley has been my greatest supporter,”said Attivor. “As a scholar athlete I had been faced with times that I felt overwhelmed with schoolwork and practice. She has always been there to give me words of advice as well as pushing me to put forward my best work. The biggest challenge that I have overcome as a student athlete playing volleyball is time management. I had to learn how to balance my academic with my sports while excelling at them both.”

Oseni says that the camaraderie that comes with being engaged in team sports is a huge benefit.

“It is fun to be on the BPS team because you get to meet new friends and you learn how to improve in the sport you play,” Oseni said. “You learn to be a better you by having a team to commit to, a schedule to follow, and a sport to practice and perfect your skills.”

Attivor has also had a positive journey while playing volleyball saying it “is amazing because it has given me a chance to connect with other athletes from all around my city and it has given me the opportunity to create new friendships. The BPS team is like a big family where everyone is welcomed to join.”