Exactly one year after the grand opening of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, its fields were under a blanket of snow. But the offseason weather hasn't stopped the partner-driven youth development work at the Academy from continuing to accelerate.
On a daily basis, more than 100 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from D.C.'s Wards 7 and 8 experience high-quality afterschool programming designed to help them succeed on the baseball field, in the classroom and in their community. That programming ranges from tutoring in math and language arts; health and nutrition education; character development-focused mentoring; electives in experiences such as yoga and Lego robotics; and -- of course -- baseball and softball.
All of the programming at the Academy is implemented with the strong support of a diverse array of community partners, each committed to the development of D.C. youth and each bringing unique skills to the table.
The Howard University softball program provides a great example of the types of partnerships that have taken root at the Academy. Every week over the course of the winter, student-athletes from the Bison squad have offered clinics for the girls of the Academy, teaching them new softball skills but also serving as powerful role models and mentors who play an influential role in their lives. The Academy is home field for the Bison's home games, and through their volunteerism, they've developed a legion of young, in-house fans.
Similar partnerships exist with Gonzaga High School, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Catholic University, the DC Grays (Washington's collegiate Cal Ripken league team) and others.
On the academic front, organizations such as Higher Achievement -- which implements the core academic enrichment program at the Academy -- have had an increasing impact, with close to 90 Higher Achievement volunteer tutors and mentors trained and filling the Academy halls each week to work with our young scholar-athletes.
The list goes on -- Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington; DC Greens; Kidpower; Epicuriosity; Brainfood; Lifepieces to Masterpieces; WinWithin Baseball; Positive Coaching Alliance; Headfirst Camps and more have all combined to offer programming at the Academy that magnifies the Academy's impact in Wards 7 and 8 and throughout D.C.
Stephen Neill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.