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League 42 provides WPS students access to baseball, tutoring

League 42 provides WPS students access to baseball, tutoring

WPS coaches and players at League 42League 42, a Wichita-based baseball-focused nonprofit, has partnered with Wichita Public Schools to not only give WPS students the opportunity to learn about baseball, but to receive after-school tutoring and enrichment as well.

It was founded in July 2013 and named in honor of Jackie Robinson, the first African American in Major League Baseball. Wichita-area children ages 5-14 can participate. Games are played in McAdams Park at 17th & Wabash. The program’s mission is to enable Wichita children to play baseball without the high costs of playing in organized or even recreational leagues.

Chris Wendt, executive director of Elementary Schools for Wichita Public Schools, has been a coach in the league for the past five years, and also serves on League 42’s education committee, as does Dr. William Polite, WPS Director of Equity, Diversity and Accountability, and Branden Johnson, executive director of Secondary Schools.

“Several years ago, Bob Lutz, the founder of League 42, reached out to the district for help in creating an education committee that could develop ways to provide academic supports for students participating in the league,” said Wendt. “We decided to create an after-school tutoring and enrichment program for WPS students that gives them a place to go after school where they can have a snack, receive tutoring and be a part of the community.”

League 42’s Leslie Rudd Learning Center houses the Bright Lights after-school tutoring program. The program focuses on enhancing math, vocabulary and reading skills for students from Pre-K through 8th grade.

“It became obvious a few years after League 42 started that we needed to add another element,” said Lutz. “Education enrichment was the obvious choice so we embarked on a fundraising process that resulted in the Leslie Rudd Learning Center, the hiring of two great educators, Chitra Harris and Nathan Anderson, and a great curriculum and plan designed by our educators and our education committee. Bright Lights is a vital part now of League 42.”

Among those who help tutor students are WPS AVID students, East High IB students, WPS retired teachers and more. Retired South High School science teacher Chitra Harris runs the program.

“We work closely with their school teachers and can focus on things they need help with,” said Harris. “We are able to provide a lot of enrichment for students as well.”

This is the first year for the tutoring program. Thirty-four students were enrolled in the program’s first trimester. Twenty-two students are currently signed up for the next session which will take place over the summer.

“We’ve seen some great improvement,” said Wendt. “We had some students who went from ‘at-risk’ in reading to the 92nd percentile. Sixty percent of students attended and completed all the enrichment activities.”

Wendt says that League 42 has done much more than just teach kids about baseball.

“League 42 has helped meet basic needs like providing after-school snacks, giving students a sense of community and belonging, and an opportunity to work on academics and help our kids understand that they’re student athletes,” said Wendt. “Students and families also benefit from community supports that League 42 helps connect them with.”