by Andrew Garda
Every summer, kids in Montclair are on the lookout for things to do. Among the many options they have are often some sort of sports camp, a job or some civil service.
Last summer, four Montclair High School students found a way to combine those things with MetroLacrosse, a program which primarily serves Boston area underprivileged children by providing a safe space to learn a new sport while also polishing up on their social skills and staying out of the way of trouble.
The four Mounties — then-juniors Laila Webb, Chynna Dunnamen and Ciarra Butler with then-sophomore goaltender Jada Auletta — chose to join the program last summer both to help themselves out as well as gain some experience outside their bubble.
Bianca Sullivan, who was a program manager with the company last summer, found the MHS girls on Facebook.
“[The page] was about urban kids playing lacrosse who were looking out for different opportunities throughout the U.S.,” Sullivan said via phone this past Tuesday. After getting into contact with the girls, Sullivan and MetroLacrosse was able to bring four of them to the camp, which is held at a private school in New Hampshire.
The summer camp the Mounties attended — called Summer Bounce — was one of two camps the organization offers and is split into two weeks, one for middle schoolers and one for high school student-athletes. For this, MetroLacrosse is in contact with other urban lacrosse organizations to bring in kids from all over the United States.
“They work with other organizations to bring the kids to New Hampshire, where they have a private school,” Sullivan said. “Which is awesome because many of the kids who attend MetroLacrosse or any of the urban programs have never gone to an overnight camp and a lot of them from other cities have never been on an airplane. For a lot of them, it’s a pretty big experience.”
Along with lots of lacrosse, the camp provides the kids with seminars and learning opportunities off the field.
“The summer camp has various leadership organizations come in like Big Brothers or Big Sisters,” Sullivan explained. “And there are daily seminars for the kids. During the high school week, it’s things like understanding the college process, or what bullying and depression looks like. For middle school, it’s about helping them with things like communication with friends and family and then eventually helping them as they transition into high school.”
Sullivan said the Montclair kids were outstanding and very motivated and the camp both benefited from their energy and enthusiasm, while the players got valuable knowledge as they planned for their futures.
“They were amazing players. They were all looking to be recruited at a high playing lacrosse team, likely D1 or D2,” Sullivan. “MetroLacrosse functioned as a good resource for them to connect to college coaches, and fill out their college applications a little more.”
Since the Mounties attended camp, the organization has continued to grow.
They still primarily serve the greater Boston area and Chelsea, helping in low-income areas where students are at a higher risk of getting involved in things like drugs or gangs, and they continue to offer a place for kids to play the sport year-round.
MetroLacrosse mostly survives on donations, as well as a small fee for out of town campers, but recently got a boost via a grant by Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW, which is supported by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation website, the grant — called the Sports 4 Life Grant — “wants to empower communities and organizations like yours, to reverse this alarming trend by increasing girls’ access to sport which provides girls with the foundational benefits of sports: leadership, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance.”
With support like that, the opportunity for more Montclair lacrosse players to get involved will continue to be there.