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More than round ball - Hoops for Peace

Hoops for Peace inspires city youth to do more, be more even after the final buzzer:

Along with picking up pointers on dribbling, 11-year-old Timothy Gainey acquired a new outlook on education after attending Saturday's Hoops for Peace Program in Syracuse University's Manley Field House.

"If I go to college, I can do so much like be successful, make money and be happy," said Gainey. "Meeting all these college players and these people has made me think I gotta keep my grades up and work really hard."

Gainey, who lives in the city of Syracuse and attends Webster Elementary, was one of more than 120 Syracuse School District students who participated in the sixth annual Hoops for Peace program, which ended this weekend with a final tournament game at SU's Manley Field House. The six-week program's main goal is to encourage middle-school students between the ages of 11 and 15 to start thinking about college and their futures while playing basketball.

"This program keeps kids focused on something that is fun so basically we use basketball as a carrot," said JoLynne Pollard, a member of the Syracuse Inner City Rotary Club. "Once we get them here we want to get the kids thinking there are more options out there and places they can excel if they stay in school."

[How does it work?]

The way the program introduces ideas about education, college and future careers is by incorporating speakers during the games' intermissions. Organizers also encourage the volunteers running the program to act as mentors to the students by talking about their personal journeys and educational choices.

"This is really our chance to expose these kids to better things in life, showing them there is something more they can achieve," said Dowayne Davis, a member of the SU football team who refereed the games. "Coming here can expose them to a lot of different role models that they can look up to and learn from."

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