FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The City of Fresno is trying to get more kids in sports and off the streets. A voucher program to help low-income parents get their children involved is in the works this month.
“As a father of a 10-year-old, I know the costs of having a child participate in a summer soccer or baseball league,” shared councilmember Miguel Arias. “I can tell you that the cost of these leagues ranges from $25,000 a year, to $1,500 a year, to the free ones where you don’t pay for the coaches, you just pay for the referee $5 every time you have a game.”
That’s why community organizers with CNC Education Fund advocated for a sports voucher program for low-income families.
“There are youth that are excluded from these types of activities being that they’re priced out, or their parents are working and can’t take them,” said Pedro Navarro Cruz with CNC Education Fund.
He’s also a volunteer soccer coach.
“It’s really hard on the coach to bring youth to play when some families can’t pay and when there’s a limited amount of resources,” he said.
In June, the city council approved a $300,000 allocation for the sports voucher program. The City is working the specifics this month; Arias says they’re aiming to roll out the application sometime in September.
“We’re trying to finalize like, what’s the maximum amount we should give somebody, and should we ask for income verification,” he said.
Organizers say getting kids involved in activities helps keep them off the streets.
“If I didn’t grow up playing soccer, I don’t know where I’d be in my life because it was able to distract me from a lot of problems and not get involved in the wrong type of activity. And it’s the same thing for youth today,” said Cruz.
The funding is only for this fiscal year, but the city is looking into long-term solutions.
“In the past, I’m talking 1970s, the City of Fresno would actually operate city leagues so kids didn’t have to pay any of the fees to be able to participate,” said Arias, adding that this is something they might offer again.