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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Unity Hoops: giving back through a love of basketball


    Summer 2011 was a season of opportunity for Guilford students. Some attended summer school, some had jobs, some volunteered and some used the time off to refresh themselves for the next semester. However, no one’s summer was more life-changing and special as junior Justin Bradley’s in southern Montana at the Crow Indian Reservation.

     Last semester, Bradley took a Native American History course at Guilford, and learned a lot about the struggles that Native Americans face daily. Forced into reservations around the country, Native Americans have been suffering from a low quality of life and high employment rate, situations worsened from the recession. However, many of the reservations are involved and dedicated to basketball, which led to a volunteering idea Bradley would take part in. 

    Bradley describes his experience as “very life-changing, very influential, exciting, and a unique opportunity for me.” 

That unique opportunity was afforded by the hard work of four college students. 

    David Dean reached out to Justin, as the two remained acquaintances from their time together on the Quaker basketball team during Dean’s first year at Guilford. Along with other team members, Dickinson senior Christina Mullen and Georgetown graduate Keith Belcher, they brought Empowerment Programs to more than 100 Crow children. 

    After organizing the group, fundraising, gathering the materials needed for the event and scheduling dates for the camps, the dream was finally a reality.

    The children, ages ten to sixteen, were taught basic basketball skills, self-discipline and mental toughness. The skills were appreciated and extremely valuable to the groups as they were able to learn and embrace their love of basketball with a renewed fervor. The program also helped children that are displaced have a new direction.

    The Crow population was a focus for Bradley and the group in order to reach out and help them as they faced dire situations. The unemployment rate of the Crow people is currently 90%, they have a life expectance of fifty years old and they are subject to poor educational and healthcare systems. Because of these issues, alcohol and drug dependency are high thus resulting in many displaced children. Finding something productive to focus on is hard. Basketball helps. 

    “There also happens to be an insane obsession with basketball,” said Dean. “It serves as an outlet, especially for youth, to get away from the surrounding difficulty.”

    When asked about what particular episode touched him, Bradley replied, “Just seeing how happy and attentive the kids were … they soon opened up and became more comfortable.” 

    Although Bradley’s story was largely unnoticed by the Guilford community, some students seemed proud and inspired by him. “When he would talk to me about (his Montana experience), it was very positive, and (he seemed like) he really enjoyed helping the kids and convinced me to start volunteering next year,” said sophomore Ryan Phillips. 

    “I would definitely do it again … I’m planning on doing it again next year,” Bradley said.

     Here’s hoping for another inspiring experience, and hoping that more student’s follow Bradley’s lead. 

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