Level Ground empowers urban youth through athletics, academics, and employment opportunities. We use martial arts as a vehicle to create positive, supportive relationships with our students as well as teaching key values such as persistence and determination.
Founded in 2013, our work began in partnership with the Egleston Square YMCA where we offered martial arts classes once per week to teenagers living in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. We gradually expanded beyond athletics and developed our robust “Success Tracks” program model. These College Access and Workforce Development offerings collectively ensure that youth have the skills and opportunities necessary to achieve their ambitions off of the mat.
In 2017, after a year-long renovation process, we opened our youth-managed Training Center. This Training Center includes two athletic areas for martial arts, yoga, and personal training, and an Academic and Career Development Center. The majority of our staff are the youth we serve. These ‘Student Trainers’ are responsible for all aspects of gym management, operations, administration, and serve as personal trainers and martial arts instructors.
Since opening our Training Center, Level Ground has expanded our athletic offerings to include 15 weekly athletic classes Monday-Friday that remain free to youth and affordable for adults. In 2019, Level Ground served 600+ youth and adults through free and affordable athletics. This social enterprise model bolsters financial sustainability and helps further fulfill our mission by increasing access to engaging physical activity options to community residents of all ages. One of our priorities is to reduce dependence on grants long-term to ensure organizational sustainability. In 2018, we began to charge fitness memberships for adults at a sliding scale in order to generate revenue for our operating and program expenses. Before the pandemic, we were on track to generate a minimum of $20,000.00 in 2020 through memberships.
In response to COVID-19, Level Ground quickly responded to the needs of our youth and families by migrating our athletic, employment, and academics programs online. In the Summer of 2020, we expanded to a hybrid model that includes safe outdoor athletic training, and online job programming. In the Fall of 2020, we will continue to meet outdoors for athletic training, and will host the job and academic programs online and in small, in-person pods. We anticipate opening the gym for athletic training by November of 2020 provided that case trends continue to decrease, and will continue to livestream classes for the foreseeable future. We will continue to provide programs through this hybrid structure until further notice, and ensure that youth remain engaged, healthy, connected to one another, and still able to earn a paycheck, while following social distancing best practices.
Key Programs and Principle Activities
Level Ground leverages training in Martial Arts and Yoga to create a positive relationship with youth in an engaging and fun fashion. We provide instruction in the striking and grappling techniques found in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Wrestling. Our professional instructors use the sport to espouse the following values: Discipline, Respect, Humility, Tenacity and Self-Control. Young people often seek to develop physical skills to deal with the fear and aggression that they face in their everyday environment. However, through the guidance of caring instructors, students learn that training is more than physical; that mental discipline and persistence are key to refine physical techniques. These mental and emotional lessons are transferable to our students’ growth off of the mat. Our Yoga program incorporates teachings on mindfulness and provides youth with additional tools to process and manage stress.
We ensure that 100% of our youth who want to go to college successfully transition by offering weekly academic tutoring and individualized guidance on the college application process.
Our College Access program includes these two components:
The Subject Tutoring Program provides academic tutoring for students in the K - 12 system, as well as early undergraduate students (i.e. students enrolled in community college, freshmen and sophomores in 4 year institutions). Academic tutoring occurs twice a week: Mondays from 7:00 - 8:00 PM and Thursdays from 6:00 - 7:00 PM. Subjects include basic maths (e.g. fundamentals, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc.), science (e.g. fundamentals, chemistry, physics, biology, etc.), English, history, and others.
The CPGP provides college-bound seniors and enrolled college students support through the college process including application and academic guidance. Offered on a weekly basis, tutors help with editing essays and resumes, refining college lists, organizing application deadlines and schedules, test prep, navigating the first years of college, and/or facilitating transferring to a 4-year institution.
The Student Trainer Workforce Development program
Level Ground is determined to provide enriching employment and academic programming during this critical time to youth that need it most. The Level Ground Student Trainer program bridges the gap between healthy living, workforce development, and Boston’s most vulnerable youth through an integrative model of longitudinal employment and educational advancement.
This program offers youth with the opportunity to:
Level Ground empowers urban youth through athletics, academics, and employment opportunities. We use martial arts as a vehicle to create positive, supportive relationships with our students as well as teaching key values such as…