East African All Stars: From Refugees to Stars
The East African All Stars is a grassroots self-led basketball team made up of refugee youth, primarily from Somalia. Their initial efforts were fostered through the Pathways to Wellness Program at Lutheran Community Services Northwest and are now supported on a continual basis by Portland Meet Portland in partnership with the Somali American Council of Oregon (SACOO). The collaborative teamwork with the East African All Stars, PMP and SACOO is to foster youth leadership, conflict resolution and community development skills – both on and off the basketball court.
Current leadership goals and projects for the EA All Stars under PMP’s guidance include planning, organizing and hosting a basketball tournament at David Douglas High School on May 30th, 2015 for younger African boys (ages 10-14) and newcomer refugees in order to grow future leaders, sustain team enrollment and give back to the community. The tournament is also an opportunity to share EA All Star strategies for player recruitment to the team and away from gangs with a visiting team of Somali basketball players from Minnesota, who have requested this invitation to play basketball in Portland and to learn about EA All Star’s positive leadership model for community safety.
PMP’s youth leadership philosophy is to engage through direct “hands on” experience, reflection and re-engagement – in other words, practicing leadership skills: communication, organization, planning, delegating, visioning, sharing and resolving conflicts as they emerge in ‘real world’ situations of winning and losing sometimes, but always learning and moving toward personal and community growth, dignity and success.