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An Unforgettable Experience: YEDA’s First College Tour of the Summer

At YEDA, we’re dedicated to supporting and mentoring our youth in every way possible. That’s why this past June, we took 22 student athletes (from our YEDA Travel Basketball Team) on a college tour that would prove to be an unforgettable experience for all of us.

Thanks to our supportive parents and volunteers, we had the opportunity to visit Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, and Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

During our time there, our students, ranging in age from 12-17 years old, soaked up every ounce of knowledge and inspiration offered to them by our amazing hosts and tour guides…or at least we hope!

YEDA college tour to Southern Illinois

Lasting Impression on YEDA’s Student Athletes

After the nearly 5-hour road trip down to southern Illinois, talking, laughing, and getting to know one another better, we arrived at SIU, where we were warmly welcomed by the college recruiters and administrators. They gave us an in-depth tour of the beautiful campus, providing our students with invaluable information about college life and what it takes to attend Southern Illinois University.

We were thrilled to have the chance to stay in the dorms at SIU, which gave the kids a real taste of what living on campus feels like. It was an eye-opening experience that allowed them to envision themselves as college students – an image that will surely fuel their motivation for years to come!

YEDA college tour at Southern Illinois University

One of the most memorable aspects of our trip was the inspirational messages we received from everyone while on tour.

For example, we visited the Banterra Center, home of Saluki Basketball. Our tour guide was Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach, former all-American, and WNBA star Jordon Jones. She showed us around the facility, including the impressive women’s locker room. She shared with us her journey to becoming a Division 1 assistant basketball coach and what it takes to stay self-motivated.

We also had the opportunity to hear from Women’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Chester Nichols and Director of Player Development Mike Geary. They shared with the group what it takes to be a top-notch student athlete – a highly impactful message that left a lasting impression with the kids.

The following day, we toured the Southeast Missouri State campus and had the privilege of meeting Brett Blackman, Director of Football Operations. He walked us through the football department and spoke passionately about the importance of individual accountability and what it takes to become a top D-1 stand-out recruit.

This resonated with many of the kids, leaving them with a deeper understanding that achieving success requires commitment not only to their studies and sports but also to themselves.

Our time spent at both Southern Illinois University and Southeast Missouri State was nothing short of extraordinary. The connections we made with college recruiters, administrators, and fellow students left a lasting impression on all of us.

We feel the students left each campus with a newfound sense of purpose and determination, ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in their academic and athletic journeys.

A Once in a Lifetime Athletic Experience

But the excitement didn't end there! During a visit to the Dentmon Center in Carbondale, we were lucky enough to have our youth participate in an NBA-style combine where they engaged in a rigorous work-out, led by former NBA player Justin Dentmon.

While there they were assessed, evaluated, and provided feedback on areas where they can improve and their strengths. This was not only fun, but also an excellent opportunity for your students to learn that there's always room for growth.

Overall, the YEDA Youth College tour was an experience that none of us will ever forget. It opened our students’ eyes to the endless possibilities that the world of higher education has to offer while simultaneously reminding them of the hard work and dedication required to make their dreams a reality.

Parent’s Perspective: Words of Praise for this Amazing Opportunity

We asked a couple of parents that joined us on the tour to share their experiences. This is what they had to say:

Trisha McNeill

“My husband and I love YEDA and what it provides young people in the community. Yes, basketball is a big part of YEDA, and they do it really well. The coaches are so good at teaching, training, and providing tools to grow each of the kids in the game. However, it’s not just about basketball…it’s about character, academics, life skills, respect, family, friendship, etc. All of YEDA’s leaders and coaches care about these kids as a whole. They believe in these young men, and they make sacrifices in order to pour into them and share their experience and knowledge with them. I was able to see this firsthand at YEDA’s recent trip to Carbondale, IL. The 22 kids that attended had so many unique opportunities packed into 4 days: touring two Division 1 college campuses, having Q&A sessions with college basketball and football coaches, participating in basketball skill assessments and a tournament, watching an alumni game and more. It was obvious to me that a great deal of care, thought and time went into making this such a successful trip. Over and over, I saw and heard coaches speak life and truth to these young men and give of themselves in an effort to build up, encourage and grow them. I’ve seen their passion for the game of basketball, but even more than that, I’ve seen their emotion and dedication for the wellbeing and for the future of these young men.”

Brandon Payne

“The YEDA 2023 College Tour was amazing!! I was excited to go visit the campuses after nearly 30 years since I was a college freshman… As a parent, I felt that this tour offered immeasurable value in so many ways. It provided:

  • Exposure to educational and athletic possibilities at the collegiate level.

  • A “target” to aim toward (i.e. university education, Division I college sports, career paths through education).

  • An opportunity to experience an area outside of their own neighborhood and a taste of life outside of the Chicagoland area (…and outside of Illinois).

  • Impactful messages from the host universities’ athletic departments regarding the absolute necessity of personal responsibility and accountability in the next level of their academic and athletic careers.

  • An extensive focused skills-training session by a former NBA and international basketball player that has turned his attention toward helping the next generation grow and improve both socially and athletically.

The young participants may not fully realize the magnitude of the experience right now, but the excellent work that CEO Greg Ellison and the coaching staff put into planning and executing this momentous event will pay dividends for many years to come.”

Supporting our Youth One Trip at a Time!

We are incredibly grateful for the college guides, parents, and volunteers that afforded us the opportunity to share this experience with our student athletes. With many more trips and tours to come, we look forward to seeing our youth continue to take the lessons learned as they embark on the next stages of their lives.

YEDA youth student athletes sitting for presentation at SIU

As YEDA expands, offering more ways to support, educate and mentor the youth of our community, we continue to need funding from generous contributors like you.

Please click this link to demonstrate your commitment to the betterment of the youth in our community by making a donation. We truly appreciate your support.

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