Eric Woolridge is the founder of Rep Your City Basketball, a non-profit organization that he created in 2007 to help young men in communities of color get the opportunity to go to college and hopefully make a career out of playing basketball. Since then, he has been organizing and looking for sponsors and volunteers to help him move forward and get the organization off of the ground.
Woolridge who was inspired by his love of basketball, and dedication to making a better life for his son who was shot at a party, had a vision, “I want to give these young men a better way to represent where they are from. Right now, when they claim where they are from, it’s in regard to gang banging. Watts and Compton are constantly given negative reputations. I want them to be able to represent for their city in a much more positive manner.”
The overall goal of the program is to further educate young men, age 17 to 25, and help them to acquire their GED and gain entry into college.
Rep Your City will be connected with local junior colleges to help give students, assessments tests during the initial tryout period.
“We hope to have tutors and mentors volunteering their time to help these young men make a difference in their own lives and in their communities. We need people who have knowledge and love of basketball, as well as a love for these men, and a desire to see them make something of themselves. For many of these men, this is the only opportunity that they have been given to get out of their neighborhood. I hope that we might even be able to give some of these young men the ability to play basketball overseas.”
Woolridge hopes to get the organization’s first season underway by next summer with 20 teams, and plans to hold open tryouts in each city with the support and assistance of local high school coaches.
Woolridge is already rallying the support of city officials, community members and potential sponsors. The passion in his voice when he speaks of the organization makes it hard not to throw support his way. Everywhere he goes, Woolridge he is constantly recruiting young men and creating a buzz around what he is trying to do. He is getting these young men interested in a constructive way of bettering themselves.
“All of the city halls that we have talked to have been really excited about the idea, and they are behind helping to make it a reality next year. They’ve given nothing but positive feedback,” said Wooldridge.
“There really isn’t anything out there right now that is like what I am doing, and I think the young men will be very responsive to it. They get an opportunity to do something that they love and simultaneously create better opportunities for themselves through education. We had the Harlem Globetrotters and the AND1 players, but nothing on a city scale like this with a strong focus on education. There aren’t enough positive outlets in the community for men this age, and this can be a major one.”
Woolridge believes that Rep Your City, aside from helping men get into college, will decrease the violence in the neighborhoods where these young men reside. The program will strive to keep participants out of prison, and in Woolridge’s words, “It will give them something better to do than having babies and playing Xbox.”
“We are looking everywhere for sponsors and volunteers, we are going to need a lot of individuals who really care to make this a reality. It’s going to happen. But we are going to need help.”