Students With Aspiring Goals (S.W.A.G) hosted its first annual Midnight Madness Basketball Camp on Friday January 24, 2014 at the Boys and Girls Club in Merced, CA. With over 30 participants, the goal of the camp was to promote safe streets. “Basketball was secondary and safety was primary. We wanted to let the parents know where their kids were” stated S.W.A.G Founder DeVon Hilliard. The night started with the participants warming up, then learning fundamentals of basketball. “We got an opportunity to see some local talent play together,” stated camp director Eddie Frazier. S.W.A.G will be launching their AAU basketball teams in May. S.W.A.G will have a boys and girls team comprised of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders.
After the fundamental portion of the camp, the kids participated in various competition games. The free throw competition got a chance for kids, volunteers, and spectators to get excited. Robert Enriquez and Shaun Jimenez participated in a sudden death best of 5 shots. With Enriquez going first, he made 3 out of 5. Jimenez stepped up to the line and connected on his first 4 and missing his last one. “That kid has heart, and loves the game of basketball. Also, he is very advanced in school which is very important,” stated S.W.A.G academic director Brett Nickelson. Nickelson is also Jimenez uncle. After the competition, spectators got to see the kids participate in a scrimmage. The scrimmages were filled with a lot of talent. Notable kids that showed talent were: Cameron Chapman, Robert Enriquez, Irik Dobbins, Ashton Jantz, Angel Serena, Lavon Wallace, Youlas Dixon III.
The kids were released to a break to enjoy cookies, chips, and sodas that were donated by Frito Lay and Elizabeth Vasquez. After the snack the mood got serious. Frank Lewis reigning from Los Angeles came to tell his story. Lewis witnessed his father being fatally shot by the police when he was 10 years old. After witnessing that, Lewis became heavily involved in gangs. When Lewis was 14 years old, his life changed drastically. Lewis, being influenced by the older gang members shot and paralyzed a USC law student. Lewis would spend the next eleven years in the California Youth Authority. “Statistics say, that I am supposed to be in and out of prison. The recidivism rate in CA is over 80%. I have beat the odds, and will continue to beat the odds,” added Lewis. “Frank is phenomenal and has overcome so much . I had a chance to meet Lewis when I was in Los Angeles and I was instructing at ITT. Lewis was one of my students. He was always the first one there and the last one to leave,” stated Hilliard. “I appreciate S.W.A.G for giving me the opportunity to speak at their camp. I am really contemplating on moving to the area. I am very intrigued of this area. This area needs a lot of help, and I feel I can help the youth of Merced County, “stated Lewis. While Lewis was speaking you could see that he had all of the kids and spectators attention. Lewis fielded questions from the kids and spectators to end his speaking engagement. S.W.A.G would like to thank Building Healthy Communities for selecting them for this grant that made this camp possible. Also, S.W.A.G would like to thank Kohls Department store for sending five volunteers to help with the camp.