School Feature: High School of World Cultures

Play Rugby USA is excited to announce the renewal of our partnership with New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to provide after-school rugby programming at the High School of World Cultures. Funded by a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) grant, the 2019-2020 programming starts on Monday, September 9th, 2019.

To celebrate the third year of partnership with the High School of World Cultures, we wanted to feature this school and how Play Rugby is supporting its students!

High School of World Cultures (HSWC) is a public school in the South Bronx, a vibrant neighborhood where many residents are immigrants both old and new to the Big Apple. The school population reflects the diverse character of its neighborhood: many of the students are from recent immigrant families who have been in the country for less than one year. It’s a truly multi-ethnic and multi-lingual school.

Data from InsideSchools about HSWC’s student population

Most HSWC students face financial and linguistic barriers: according to InsideSchools, 97% qualify for free or reduced lunch (meaning that they are at or below 130% of the poverty line) and 80% are English language learners. Despite the students’ lack of access, limited resources and language proficiency, HWSC’s administrators and teachers have been working passionately and creatively to improve the quality of learning for their students.

One of these creative solutions is the partnership with Play Rugby. Our after-school rugby program is uniquely well-suited to support their students for three reasons:

First, we are a Sports Based Youth Development organization that uses rugby as a vehicle to teach core values and life skills to students to help them excel in all aspects of their lives: in the classroom, on the field and out in their communities. To achieve this goal, our Youth Development Mentors (YDMs) form vital connections with our students. Often acting as their biggest cheerleaders, our YDMs are more than rugby coaches. They truly believe that every student has the potential to thrive academically, emotionally and athletically with the right guidance and support.

The benefits of role models who create vital connections with students is well documented. For example, a recent study has shown that role models have a significant positive impact on the success of teenagers regardless of their risk factors, income or ethnicity.

Second, rugby is an inherently inclusive, international team sport that encourages cooperation.

“Rugby is egalitarian – everyone plays offense and defense, everyone has to be able to pass and run the ball.”

— Wil Snape-Rogers, Executive Director, Play Rugby USA

This means that every player has equal responsibility to the team. To succeed in such a game where every players’ action matters equally, cooperation and trust among teammates are absolutely necessary. Additionally, rugby is a truly international sport. More than 120 countries play rugby which means that students who learn the sport are welcomed into a global community! Not only could students connect over rugby with their friends within our programs but to the whole wide world of players from all walks of life.

Jahquar’s Rugby Journey through Play Rugby and beyond!

Play Rugby’s YDMs are well-aware of this unique power of rugby, which builds camaraderie among diverse groups of people. For example, Jahquar, a former program student and current YDM, has shared how connections forged from rugby changed his own life. Such connections forged in academic and communal settings have shown to have positive, long-term effects on teenagers.

Third, Play Rugby is a non-profit dedicated to providing a high quality learning environment for ALL students regardless of their income or background. In a world where access to youth sports is becoming more and more limited to those with parents who can afford to pay, organizations like Play Rugby play a vital role in providing life-changing activities for students regardless of their background.

“Unlike in the classroom, where some students struggle more than others, Play Rugby becomes a level playing field where all students have the opportunity to learn a new sport through trial and error that challenges them physically, socially and emotionally. At the end of the game, they are exhausted but, have smiles on their faces.”

– Matilde Cruz, Community School Director, HSWC

Students at HSWC may come from different backgrounds but one thing is for sure: they can play rugby with us to learn, grow and succeed.