TAMPA, Fla. — Chris Ward is a former professional basketball player that now dedicates his life to giving back to urban communities through youth development operations such as The Skills Center.
“The Skills Center is a black-owned, non-for-profit, and the ultimate goal is to teach transferable skills. Respect, responsibility, work ethic,” Ward said. “We’ve been around for 13 years, and this is more passion and purpose work than a paycheck.”
What You Need To Know
- Chris Ward runs the Skills Center and the YES! grant program
- The YES! program is funded by a federal grant for years
- As part of the initiative, girls learn how to eat healthy
Ward, also the program director for The Youth Engagement and Sports (YES) Program offered through the Skills Center in Hillsborough, said the center is currently looking for 100 more girls to take advantage of the program offered under a grant through the U.S Health and Human Services Department from 2019-21.
“I’ve also invested nearly a million of my own money into the program,” Ward said. “But with the YES! grant, the biggest piece is teaching kids how to eat healthy: basic fruits, vegetables, yogurts, granola. [We’re teaching] them how to prepare healthy meals that they can eat daily.”
Ward, also known to his students as Coach Ward, said the grant also provides funding for academic guidance, mentorship, weekly delivered healthy meal prep options, and Fitbit watches to monitor the girl’s physical activity.
“The ultimate goal is to provide [for] 300 girls per year —- that’s 600 girls over two years,” Ward said. “Right now, we have a total of 170 girls in the database, but 80 have signed up.”
Girls can find out more about the program on the Skills Center’s website.