The Penn men’s lacrosse team has 22 new additions.
In October, the team began working with Comegys Community School through the Comegys University-Assisted Community School partnership. Once a week, the team tutors fourth to sixth grade boys and teaches them how to play lacrosse.
Each session is a 90-minute practice, 30 minutes of which are devoted to academic enrichment. Now that Penn’s lacrosse season has started, the boys practice every Friday on Franklin Field.
For the boys at Comegys, lacrosse has evolved from a sport they had barely heard of into the highlight of their week. Faculty now have to hide the lacrosse sticks from the boys so they don’t get distracted during school.
“Energy level [is] through the roof on lacrosse days,” program coordinator Pauline Branson said.
The students love the players’ mentorship, and both the players and coaches are very helpful on and off the field.
“I always say that lacrosse is extra fun and we want to go all the time,” Comegys fourth-grader William said.
For many of the students, the program is about more than lacrosse — it is an investment in their futures. Site director Alexis Walker said that when they were beginning the program, Penn men’s lacrosse head coach Michael Murphy explained to her how playing lacrosse can help the boys in the long run.
“Kids in inner cities don’t get a chance to play these alternative sports but have a better chance of getting scholarships if they do,” Walker said. “[We’re] giving them a shot at a better quality of life.”
The program also gives the Comegys boys mentors. Two lacrosse players are assigned to work with each child. According to Branson, the boys sometimes question the Penn players about life at college. Branson and Walker hope that Penn’s presence will encourage the boys to see the importance of being a student as well as an athlete.
“They’re not only selling lacrosse, but the college experience as well,” Walker said.
Although the school doesn’t have official statistics at this time, faculty at Comegys have noticed an increase in attendance and academic performance among the students in the program.
Comegys boys will soon start practicing with Penn lacrosse for two days a week, and are scheduled to compete in tournaments in April and May. After the boys graduate from Comegys, the partnership will track them to see if they continue playing and to measure the program’s long-term impact.
“It’s a creative and impactful way for the players and coaches in our program to work with our neighbors in West Philadelphia, and also to give back to the sport and the University in a meaningful way,” Murphy said in an email.