Portland Kids Learn about Life and Basketball at the Hoopin' It Up Camp

Each year, 50 youth participate in Hoopin' it Up, a basketball camp open to youth living in the Hillsdale Terrace and Slavin Court public housing communities in southwest Portland. Three years ago, April Soles, the manager of Hillsdale Terrace, and Officer Tim Evans of the Portland Police Bureau hoped to provide an opportunity for youth to participate in quality summer recreation – something that is often out of reach for these economically challenged families.

In the past three years, the week-long camp has expanded beyond basketball to include a writing component and track and field training. An equally important aim of the program is to teach kids about leadership and decision-making. The GREAT (Gang Resistance Education And Training) Program curriculum is included in the camp, and youth learn life skills. Positive behavior is reinforced and healthy decisions are encouraged.

Youth are coached by volunteer coaches from area basketball teams and police officers. The program began as a partnership between the Housing Authority of Portland, the Portland Police Bureau, and several other community organizations. Recently, Schools Uniting Neighborhoods joined the effort and rented Jackson Middle School to the program for free. "There are many people and organizations that collaborate as sponsors or behind the scenes to make this camp happen,” said April Soles.

Motivational speakers address the campers each day at lunch. One speaker was professional women's basketball player Traci Thirdgill, who grew up living in Hillsdale Terrace. In a letter to the youth, Thirdgill said, "I just want to tell you all that I was one of you. The Hillsdale Terrace lives in me and gave me my start. It was the first place I bounced my basketball, ran sprints on the big field, and where I started to believe. Stay focused, stay positive, and truly believe in yourself. You have only one life and hard work and dedication will always pay off at the end."