Midnight basketball keeps youth off the streets
Lancaster, CA - For more than four years, Rossie Johnson has been an anchor in the community, a role model for youth, and a beacon of light for at-risk teens. Though Antelope Valley offers a favorable environment to raise families and services are exceptional, many migrants from Los Angeles and other typically active communities know that the drive down the 14 freeway is like traveling to a far away land with little to do, especially for young, active minds.
Johnson recognized that young people were underserved and probably bored. He started playing basketball with some of the young men in the area and thought this was the outlet other teens needed. In search of a viable program that could be shaped to fit the Antelope Valley communities, Johnson found the perfect program, Midnight Basketball League.
“When I originally started the program, I was running an open gym a couple of nights a week,” Johnson reflected. “I was talking to some of the guys and I found out that these guys had a lot of talent on the court and some of them were pretty sharp.” He said he became a mentor for some of the young men and found that many of them were experiencing some personal hardships related to work, school, and family. Johnson wanted to reach more teens.
“I founded Midnight Basketball. These guys were using basketball as a way to engage (youth) and offer them work at the same time,” Johnson said.
The program is a community resource that trains participants to successfully land jobs and centralize their abilities to go to college. Johnson says many of the young people involved do not know what options they have and through this program, eyes are opened and new opportunities are found. Yeyboe Morris, a 33 year-old program participant, has been working with Johnson since the program’s beginning.
“The program has been going real good. It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen it,” Morris commented. “It helps the youth; it gets people off the street. A lot of the people in the city of Lancaster have nothing to do.”
Through the program, Morris gained the skills to work in general contracting, helping to build homes in the community. Recently, he helped build a youth house from the ground up. “Rossie is running the program well and we need to expand it to make it bigger and better,” Morris said.
The Midnight Basketball League is currently eight teams strong, with at least 90 basketball players, ages 17-25. Both young men and women are invited to play. Each player is required to participate in an hour-long life skills training session before basketball begins at 10 p.m. Teams play at the Champion Center, located at 44514 20th Street West, Lancaster, CA 93534 every Friday, starting with educational sessions at 9 p.m.
That’s been your motto since forever because you’ve always loved a good challenge. Somebody put up a barrier, you’ll figure a way around it. If there are roadblocks, you find another path. You can make things happen, you’ve got friends where you need them, and heaven help the person who tells you “no.”
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