For many student athletes, sports may offer the only chance at a better future. Hoping to either sign with the major leagues or receive scholarships, some athletes make their sports performance their first priority. And sometimes, their grades suffer.
It’s those students Lafayette High School Athletics Director Dan Barner hopes to reach with a pilot program he’s launching this fall to tutor student athletes after practices every week. The program will be called I-PAASS (I Pay Athletic Academic Study Skills). The school will sell car magnets saying “I-PAASS” for $30 to raise funds for the program. Donations will be tax-deductible, Barner says.
The I-PAASS program will be open to any athletes who failed an SOL or are struggling in any particular subject. Tutors from the AVID program and the College of William and Mary will work with students after practices each week. On Tuesday and Thursday nights, Buon Amici and Chick-fil-A will provide meals to the participating students.
The program is funded by a donation from Ken and Betsy Terry, whose son, Taylor, graduated from Lafayette last year. “Through their son, they got to know many kids on the football team and saw that a lot of these kids have some real needs, a lot are right on the fringes,” Barner says. “Because of that, Betsy and her husband decided they’d give us this money.”
In 2000, a lot in Ford’s Colony was donated for auction and with money from the sale, Lafayette Athletic Education Foundation was incorporated. “The goal was to get to $60,000 and then we could start using the dividends,” Barner says. But when the market fell, the fund lost about $30,000. The Terrys’ donation came at a perfect time, Barner says.
“The Terrys wanted to give something back … they said, ‘The school gave a lot to our son,’” he says. “My hope is that other parents in the Lafayette community will donate or buy the magnet. Usually, when you give to a charity, a lot of it is used for administrative stuff. But we’re already paid, except for the tutors. Every dollar that goes in this account goes to the kid.”
The twice-weekly meals from Buon Amici and Chick-fil-A will provide food for students who may not have good dinners every night. “If they’re practicing at 5:30, I can’t expect them to stay until 7:30 without feeding them,” Barner says.
Denise Berardi, general manager of Buon Amici, says the restaurant was happy to get involved with the program. “I applaud his initiative to get this started,” she says. “Some of these kids, this is going to be the best meal they get in a week.”
In addition, the program will target students who are at risk of getting kicked off sports teams for low grades. “For a lot of kids, it’s the athletics that open the door for them for college, but they struggle academically,” Berardi says. “At the same time, you don’t want to close the door to athletics.”
The most important lesson he can teach is that athletics and academics are both important, Barner says. “I tell the kids all the time that my goal is that when you walk across that stage for graduation, you have options,” he says.