We’re psyched to be working with A PLUS Youth Program this year — Our very own Duni Disston recently initiated the Seattle non-profit afterschool program's staff into the Reset Revolution!
A PLUS supports local youth with academics, athletics, and mentorship — their mission is to use sports as a vehicle to provide the resources necessary for student-athletes to succeed in life. Here's the inside scoop from Athletic Director Asha Sundae Dean about the program, her passion for fitness and youth development, and running…
Jasyoga: Where did your passion for fitness and running originate?
Asha: My love of running came from watching my older cousins compete and at age five, I began running. Born and raised in Seattle, my passion has led me to coach at various levels throughout the sport and around the country including being an assistant manager of the 2011 USA Youth World Track & Field team in Lille, France. For the last seven years, I ‘ve coached cross-country and track & field at Lakeside School where I am an alum. So, running has always been apart of my life and fitness has simply been part of my lifestyle.
Jasyoga: What drew you to work at A PLUS?
Asha: I chose to work for A PLUS because the opportunity to do engaging work with youth, inspiring a life-long love of fitness and building an inner-city running program is my dream job! I believe in the vision our executive director has of the student-athlete model and I wanted to be part of the movement. I honestly believe kids can learn so much about themselves through sport that will carry them beyond their playing years.
Jasyoga: How long has A PLUS been around and how many kids are in the program?
Asha: We are in our fifth programming year. We service 180 youth from 43 different schools, coming from 14 various school districts in Greater Seattle.
Jasyoga: Who is eligible to participate in the A PLUS?
Asha: Any youth in 4th–11th grades who want to compete in basketball, cross-country or track & field.
Jasyoga: What does an average weekday at A PLUS look like for a member?
Asha: An average A PLUS student-athlete day includes transportation from school to our site, a meal upon arrival from 4–4:30pm, academic tutoring from 4:30–6pm, and sports practice from 6–7:30pm.
Jasyoga: What makes your program different from all the other youth sports models in the area?
Asha: Well, quite frankly there isn’t another program like ours because we focus on the complete development of our student-athletes. There are a lot of academic programs and there are a variety of sports teams for a parent to choose from, but if you want to set your student-athlete up for success in the classroom, hardwood, or on the track, we would be the place for all of it!
Jasyoga: What does the A PLUS academic program consist of?
Asha: The A PLUS academic program consists of two to three tutoring sessions per week before practices. Each student-athlete also has an academic case manager who is in charge of monitoring students’ attendance, behavior in class, and grades.
Jasyoga: What is your vision for the new running program and how will yoga help?
Asha: We plan to work with the whole athlete: physical, mental strength, academic preparation, life skills, and mentorship. Our goal is to take our athletes to the next level with the skills and strength to compete at the highest level, along with enjoying running and gaining a love of the sport for lifelong physical fitness. I see yoga playing a major role in helping our student-athletes prevent injuries, have active recovery, and also teach them about their bodies. It’s so important for an athlete to have a strong sense of self so that they can prevent injuries and also self-advocate to future coaches about physical concerns. The opportunity to work with Jasyoga is huge — we are both pioneers in our fields and I see this beneficial for both of us!
Jasyoga: How can our community and others volunteer to support A PLUS?
Asha: A PLUS can always use more support and welcomes anyone interested in volunteering! Just contact me if you are interested.
Visit aplusyouthprogram.org to learn more, or reach out to Asha at asha.dean@aplusyouthprogram to get involved!