It’s Midnight. Do You Know Where Your Basketball Is?

That’s the operative question for nearly 150 young men on San Antonio’s East Side this summer who are participating in the inaugural season of Midnight Basketball at the Davis-Scott Family YMCA. As part of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which received one of five Promise Neighborhoods implementation grants in 2011, the new league’s dozen teams compete on Friday and Saturday nights through August 4.

At the heart of all Promise Neighborhoods is the collaboration among diverse community organizations – public and private, non-profit and for-profit, secular and faith-based, academic and extracurricular – and the East Side collaborative, led by the United Way of Antonio and Bexar County, that is making the summer league possible exemplifies that principle. The San Antonio Police Athletic League organized the overall effort, but relied on area churches to recruit the players, who range in age from 17 to 23. The teams’ jerseys were donated by Generations Federal Credit Union and other assistance is coming from the Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which is investing in the Eastside Promise Neighborhood on behalf of San Antonio’s professional basketball organization. In keeping with its goal of ensuring that local students feel safe in their schools and community, $15,000 of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood grant is supporting the summer league. The new league attracted local and statewide media attention, including coverage by KSAT12 News and Texas Public Radio

Behind the scenes, the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, which received the nearly $24 million, multi-year grant from OII last December, is partnering with the San Antonio Independent School District, the City of San Antonio, the municipal housing authority, the Family Service Association of San Antonio, and the local City Year affiliate, among other organizations. The consortium received an earlier Promise Neighborhoods planning grant in 2010 that allowed them to “put school improvement at the center of local efforts to revitalize underserved neighborhoods.” The implementation grant will support a “continuum of solutions” that respond to the community’s “core needs for helping youth achieve and succeed in schools and helping adults advance their education.”

Among the outcomes that the Midnight League will accomplish, according to San Antonio Police Chief William McManus, who was on hand for the kickoff game on June 7, is providing the community’s young men with a positive alternative to gangs and selling drugs. “Because they’re here, they’ll have much less exposure to that,” McManus said. It’s also about fostering a new generation of positive male role models in the community, noted Danny Zamora, director of the local police athletic league. The values that come from teamwork and choosing positive over negative influences in life are ones that he expects his colleagues to instill as role models to the young men playing basketball this summer. But Zamora also hopes their efforts pay forward, “instill(ing) those values into them so they can in turn become role models to the young kids on the East Side as well.”