A decade after the launch of their ‘Victory Scholars’ program, the Sport Changes Life foundation is celebrating another milestone as the next class of Victory Scholars ventures into their new roles, helping to shape the lives of young people across the island of Ireland, on Thursday.
Designed in partnership with the charity’s founding university partner Ulster University, the Victory Scholar Program brings hope to young people in local communities through lessons in teamwork, sport and confidence delivered by the American scholars, who will also pursue postgraduate degrees during their time here. This year’s class of 26 Victory Scholars – including the introduction of two Dubai-based scholars – brings the total number of Victory Scholars to over 100 in 10 years.
Sport Changes Life’s Victory Scholars Program consists of students who have excelled in their academics and sport, primarily basketball – and in recent years golf – in American Universities during their undergraduate studies. The Scholars then go on to study for postgraduate degrees at universities across the Island of Ireland while putting their extensive knowledge of sport, team building and mentorship to practice in communities across the island. In their time in Ireland the Scholars have not only helped to strengthen the level of basketball being played at a grassroots level, but have also impacted young lives by providing an outlet for confidence building and in many cases steering young people toward positive futures.
Reflecting on the incredible success of Sport Changes Life Victory Scholars Program, Gareth Maguire, CEO and Co-Founder of Sport Changes Life said,
“We are so proud of how far Sport Changes Life Victory Scholar Program has come in its first ten years, and truly feel that our tenth year will be the most exciting. This year the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, which will raise funds for Sport Changes Life, will come to Belfast’s SSE Arena, and with the help and support of the Rory Foundation, we have been able to expand our programme to include our 100th Victory Scholar as well as two new Victory Scholar positions in Golf and Tennis in Dubai.”
The success of the Program in its first decade was highlighted on the 22nd August as this year’s class of Victory Scholars attended a luncheon in New York City and were welcomed by Rory McIlroy’s Rory Foundation, who last year announced Sport Changes Life as a partner charity. At the luncheon event Rory Foundation Chief Executive Barry Funston commended Sport Changes Life for its work to further develop local community outreach initiatives, making a significant impact to young lives and acting as a force for positive change.
Reflecting on their first year of partnership with Sport Changes Life, Barry Funston said;
“We’ve been working with Sport Changes Life since early 2016 and have met the Scholars in New York both this year and last year before they came to Ireland. It’s great to meet them in their own environment and then see the excellent work they do across Northern Ireland and Ireland, delivering meaningful change to disadvantaged young people. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to come here and develop their skills and I wish them well.”
In addition to their roles as local ambassadors for sport and as team builders and mentors for young people island-wide, this year’s Victory Scholars will also take on a unique role as ambassadors for the upcoming Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic, presented by Sport Changes Life, which will take place 1st and 2nd December 2017 at the Belfast SSE Arena. The two-day basketball will welcome four American universities as they go head-to-head to compete in the first of its kind competitive collegiate basketball tournament outside of America.
Sport Changes Life Victory Scholars will remain embedded in their local communities throughout the autumn 2017 and spring 2018 terms and will also join thousands of sport enthusiasts in welcoming collegiate players from College of the Holy Cross, Manhattan College, La Salle University and Towson University as they play in the two-day tournament in early December. For more information Sport Changes Life Victory Scholar Program visit www.sportchangeslife.com or to purchase tickets for the upcoming Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic visit www.belfastbasketballclassic.com.