A life skills instructor speaks to participants about building credit.North City resident Kenny Williams and his team had just posted another victory in the St. Louis NITES Basketball League, and the group of young men was all smiles as they walked off the court. Their successful efforts did not end on the basketball court though, because all were headed to a life skills learning class right after to continue in their winning ways.

The league is a partnership between ARCHS, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry and Fathers' Support Center. Over 240 men between the ages of 18-35 form 10 teams for an 11-week basketball league.

ARCHS was selected by the City of St. Louis to manage the partnership via a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The participants are also required to take 10 life skills classes coordinated by Fathers' Support Center, which teach the young men about finances, building credit, nutrition, employment and housing.

“It keeps us out of trouble because it gives us something to do,” Williams said. “It benefits the whole community as well because the police officers are out here with us, and in this neighborhood you don’t see the police and young men interacting like this on such a positive note.”

Police officers claim the league’s biggest benefit is allowing them the chance to get to know one another, and that would not be possible under normal circumstances. The police are are happy not only to have the combination of fun and learning, but also that there are 240 young men who participate.

“This is a great program because guys love to play basketball, but this also allows them to do it in a safe and competitive environment. They all know there are a lot of police here so they don’t have to worry about any altercations,” said Lt. Shawn Dace. “A lot of these guys have done time in prison, but they are learning something while being here. We have really bonded with these guys.”

Kristin Schell (shown above right), a Credit Building Manager at Justine Peterson, recently taught a financial literacy class for the young men. She said most are always engaged, and very interested in learning the life skills they need to either improve their lives or keep it sustained.

“Credit is important to everyone here because it not only helps you with financial success, but also your housing, employment, if you can get a house and a lot more,” Schell said. “Learning how to handle your credit positively can affect everyone here.”

North St. Louis resident Nico Reed said while he loves to come and play basketball, he takes a lot home every time from the classes.

“They are very helpful, Reed said. “They have changed the way I look at things, how I eat, take care of myself and even the way I live. And it’s all for the better.”