Students at John F. Kennedy High School recently donated baseball equipment that may be used on the “field of dreams” – the one in East Harlem, that is.
Bellmore-Merrick teens enrolled in Bradley Seidman’s Sports in American Culture class recently collected used sporting equipment to benefit Harlem RBI, a charitable organization that aims to provide inner-city youth with opportunities to play, learn and grow.
Seidman said the service-learning project began after his students spent two weeks studying the changing demographics of American sports, focusing on the lack of black athletes in Major League Baseball. Research conducted by USA Today suggests that the African-American population in professional baseball dropped to a historically low 8.05 percent last season. The students examined the socioeconomic conditions in inner cities that caused a decrease in participation in the game by young black males.
After teaching the course for seven of his nine years at the high school, Seidman said he wanted to incorporate a service-learning element into the curriculum. He has helped organize charity projects in his social studies classes and through student government, which he advises, in the past. The teacher explained that service learning is an important component of any school program, and he wanted to bring it to his course about the role of sports in society – including issues related to race and socioeconomics.
“It’s interesting to not only understand these relationships, but to also understand and benefit a program that looks to expand the participation of Black athletes in the sport,” he said. “To incorporate something like this into the program was most worthwhile.”
Seidman first learned about the Harlem RBI program while watching baseball games, as the New York Yankees has worked with the charity during their Hope Week. He felt the organization’s mission tied into what the students were learning in the classroom.