Fifteen Years and Counting for Life Skills and Basketball Camp

By Zilingo Nwuke

The Simmons Foundation for Youth and Change (SFYC) held its 15th annual Life Skills and Basketball Camp from June 14 to 25 at East High School, with more than 100 campers showing up. Coach Alvertis Simmons, camp founder and civil rights activist, is proud of how his camp has grown and progressed through the years. The camp helps youth learn life principles that will help them succeed and provides them the opportunity to fine tune their basketball skills under the guidance of East High School Hall of Famer and 2014 State Basketball Champion Rudy Carey.

“Things have been going pretty well. I’ve been very pleased with the progress of our camp. I thank God for the opportunity to help these young people and to give back to our community,” said Simmons.

The main focus of the camp is to drill six principles into the campers’ minds to build character and help them become better versions of themselves. The six core principles are love, respect, self-esteem, self-respect, discipline, and pride. Simmons and his team explain to campers what each principle means and breaks it down for them so they can understand why the importance of each one.

“I’m hoping to save some lives man. That’s really what it amounts to. I hope that these kids understand that when we are not around, it’s about their character,” he explained.

Camp activities and guest speakers reinforce the lessons about the principles, and help the campers put the principles into practice so they can transfer into their everyday lives.  The Life Skills Workshop is an essential tool to complete this task.

“The Life Skills Workshop has been going really well. Today we have the Hensel Phelps Construction Company here. Yesterday, we had the Max Group, led by an African-American female entrepreneur who came in and talked to the kids about owning their own business,” stated Simmons. “Today, the Denver cops are here to talk about engaging in the community in a positive way because we want our kids to stay alive. We have more to come and more to go.”

After 15 years, the camp has become a big part of the Denver community, and is support by many organizations. It has a reputation for a strong structure that gains the attention of the children at a young age and guides them on a path of empowerment to making the right decisions when faced with challenges in life. 

“I believe it’s a bridging-the-gap moment for the community and certainly for the children. They look forward to this event every year because they know that it’s going to be here. They know they will have nine or 10 days of fun, safety, relatability, teaching, and guidance. I think that’s important, that we give children something to look forward to,” stated Sergeant Carla Havard, president of the Black Police Officers Association.

Simmons observed how the camp has grown in bodies and financial support and support from the community in general due to all the work of his team consistently over the years. The camp organizers took the original idea of being positive role models for children and demonstrating a life for the kids that didn’t involve joining gangs or doing drugs and turned it into a legacy.

“I just hope that when I’m done and gone that my grandsons Larenz, Tj and Dj continue with this legacy of the Simmons Foundation Life Skills and Basketball Camp,” Simmons concluded.