Jasmine Singleton played basketball to keep herself out of trouble while growing up in the Los Angeles area. The game carried her through West Virginia University, Pasadena City College, and into a job at Long Beach Parks and Recreation.
After joining the California National Guard seven years ago, she learned about Grizzly Youth ChalleNGE Academy while serving at Camp Roberts just outside San Luis Obispo. She found out that Grizzly was one of many Youth ChalleNGe Academies run by the National Guard across the country. These Academies are designed to take in at-risk youth (male and female) and give them tools to straighten out their lives.
She discovered that the California National Guard runs Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy at Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB).
That lit a fire under her.
She wanted to serve at a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy, and she wanted to return home to Southern California. She applied to Sunburst. There was no funding to add a full-time position for her. That did not discourage her. She moved back home to Southern California and volunteered at Sunburst.
Maintaining and building
When funding was found (for the time being), she became a “transitional specialist” for Sunburst. She is responsible for helping graduates move smoothly and successfully back into regular life while maintaining and building on lessons learned during the residential program intended to turn their lives around.
(Most graduates of Sunburst return to civilian life, many back to high school after earning course credits while in residence at the JFTB. Some go to work, some to college. Some even enlist in one of the branches of the armed forces, by their own choice. A transitional specialist and a case manager help them along the way.)
Sunburst has an excellent track record in seeing that the lessons learned stick with graduates. A big part of that success comes from following up with graduates after they have left. Sgt. Singleton is constantly brainstorming for programs and events to keep graduates involved with the program.
The cadets have always wanted a basketball team…
Basketball as carrot
Sgt. Singleton decided to set up a pilot basketball tournament for graduates, as a carrot for the cadets to stay the course through graduation.
That pilot basketball tournament is going on right now, with heavy participation from the latest graduating class of cadets. She also reached out to members of earlier classes through social media (hashtag #iamsunburst) and case managers.
The result was a team with members from at least five different classes. The games are played at Los Alamitos Community Center.
|July 22||Pick-up team|
|July 29||Better Through Basketball (non-profit) team|
|August 12||Cottonwood Church|
|August 19||Sunburst cadre team|
The first opposing team was scrounged from among friends of Sgt. Singleton. Yes, the friends have basketball experience. No, they didn’t go easy on the cadet graduate team. The last game will be played against cadre members, that is, Sunburst military staff members.
The team has been invited next year to join the Better Through Basketball (BTB) ten-week league. BTB is based in Whittier.
Sgt. Singleton is planning to add a big trophy to the foyer of Sunburst with the names of the champions of each year’s tournament. New classes will walk by and think, “That can be me after I graduate!”
Class 20, the current class, is now past its acclimation phase. It will conclude in December, with another raucous graduation at Cottonwood Church. The graduates will have earned that jubilation — and the right to try out for Sgt. Singleton’s basketball team.