March 3, 2011
Each Wednesday throughout the winter quarter, members of the football team, along with UCLA Head Athletic Performance Coach Mike Linn will visit Palms Middle School to participate in The Prime Time Games. The Prime Time Games is a full-inclusion sports program wherein at-risk middle school students from the Team Prime Time After School Program coach, mentor and play alongside young athletes with special needs, including autism and Down syndrome.
"This sports mentorship program brings together low income and special needs students, and provides a unique experience for our athletes," said Linn. "Different than most community service opportunities, this after-school program allows mentor-to-mentor interaction as well as an inclusive environment for the special needs participants.
"The goal at UCLA has always been to build the complete student-athlete; in the classroom, on the field and in the community. This is especially true with football, where player development should be as much about building character as it is improving physical abilities."
This week's visit was special for one student, Matthew, who is hearing impaired and wears hearing aids like Derrick Coleman. Matthew spoke more with Derrick than with anyone else in the year-plus time he's been in our program.
Hey! This is Connor Bradford from the UCLA football team. I'm a third year offensive lineman and I just wanted to talk about the experience I had with the Man Maker Program at the Palms Middle School this past Wednesday. This was my second chance to work with these amazing kids, and the experience was just as eye opening as the first time I went. The way the program works is so unique because it's not often that you can find an after-school program that allows Inner City kids to become coaches and mentors to children with special needs, and have these kids react so well to it. It was inspiring to see how willing these kids were to be helped and how well the mentors guided those that were less fortunate than themselves.
The Man Maker Program is very beneficial to the children with special needs as well. It really brought a smile to my face, seeing the kids come alive and haing so much fun by just being able to come play basketball. I enjoyed talking to the kids almost, if not more, than playing basketball with them. My eyes will forever be opened after talking to an athlete named Jacob. From the outside, one would only see his disability, but with the help of his mom and a paper key board, his true brilliance shines through. The things he told us about the world and how it must change I will never forget.