The Lady Chargers Girls Volleyball team of University Preparatory Academy of Science and Math (UPSM) are working diligently to raise funds for the purchase of a regulation volleyball net for their school. Currently, the team is forced to practice on a badminton net, making the opportunity to host games on their own court impossible.
The new school facility that was erected beside and connects to the Detroit Science Center, has garnered headlines and praise for its overall focus on specialized curriculum as well as its unique partnerships with organizations like Ecotek, the University of Michigan and Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and others.
“It’s only been open since the beginning of the school year,” said one UPSM student who attended the school when it was housed in the Compuware building in downtown Detroit.
The public charter school district provides a specialized educational path preparing students for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers of the global economy. Through Project Lead The Way (PLTW) students are prepared to become innovative and productive leaders in STEM fields. UPSM schools are dedicated to academic superiority, personalized learning plans and hands-on career experiences through sophisticated community partnerships.
Because a comprehensive sports program isn’t the main focus of UPSM, the formation of a competitive girls volleyball program had not been considered in the gym’s design. The Lady Chargers find themselves at a disadvantage because the gymnasium plans failed to include previsions for the existence of a team.
While still a new team at a relatively new school, the Lady Chargers are in the midst of developing an athletic culture at the middle school dedicated to science and mathematics. Girls volleyball is one of only three athletic programs offered at UPSM, including track and men/women’s basketball.
The Lady Chargers find themselves playing this season’s home games at Plymouth Educational Center until they’re able to gather the funds needed to purchase and install a regulation volleyball net.
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t been in our budget to be able to purchase one,” said UPSM coach Julie Lesley. “Our players’ parents have shown tremendous support by sharing their fundraising ideas and volunteering their time.”
Understanding the need for physical education and competitive sports, Coach Lesley volunteered to start the girls volleyball program.
“I played at the collegiate level and have also been able to coach in other school districts,” she said. “It’s an important part of growing up. I’ve been able to see the difference in these girls as well as myself when I was playing.”
The 90/90 school is at the center of a powerful movement to produce vibrant, high-achieving, college-ready youth across Metro Detroit. The school’s mandate is to graduate at least 90 percent of its students and send at least that same percent on to college — “no matter what it takes,” according to its mission.
Lesley, who taught in Chicago’s public schools, knows well what disparities children face in lower performing school districts.
“You wouldn’t believe the incredible spirit those kids have,” said Lesley when reflecting on her student’s ability to excel at sports and academia. “They just needed a chance and a little push, I know my (UPSM) students have more of an advantage and can do great in the program.”
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