Three bored kids and no cable TV could have made for a summertime disaster in the Ebere Ejimofor household, were it not for a unique character and fitness program that wrapped its 18 th year at West Virginia University on Friday (July 22).

The 2005 edition of the National Youth Sports Program at WVU was a 27-day extravaganza that took in everything from the academic seriousness of SAT scores to the flat-out fun of swimming at local pools.

NYSP annually provides an anchor of support for disadvantaged youth from Monongalia County. The free camp was open to children ranging from 0-16.

Im very much impressed,Ejimofor said on the last day of the program as he and his wife, Amanda picked up their two young sons and daughter from the WVU Shell Building, which served as a venue for the classes on study habits and drug and alcohol awareness while NYSP was in session.

For Ejimofor, a soft-spoken Nigerian pursuing a doctorate in community health, the NYSP at WVU offers the best of several worlds for his children who are now, he says,at a very impressionable age.His sons, Kelechi and Chibuzor, are 12 and 11, and daughter Chinwe, is 10.

The Ejimofor children were among the 226 a day who attended NYSP which officially launched June 16.

It was time well-spent, Ejimofor said.

The program gets them using their bodies and brains,he said.I like that. They would have just been hanging out at home otherwise, and we dont have cable. They were just on the verge of complaining when the first day (of NYSP ) came around.

During the NYSP run, they couldnt wait to get out of the door in the morning.

Mention that to WVU s Bruce Wilmoth, and the physical education professor who has directed WVU s program for all 18 years, will smile and give an appreciative nod.

Well, thats exactly what we want to hear,Wilmoth said.Were not just a �€~sports camp.I mean, we do have a strong fitness component, but were also looking at a lot of other things, from serving nutritional lunches to offering drug and alcohol counseling. Were setting a foundation of positive behavior, and were having fun doing it.

All that fun, of course, masks a serious mission, Wilmoth said.

The environment of the NYSP and all the services it can offer just wouldnt be open to a lot of these kids otherwise,he said.Thats why funding for these programs is absolutely critical.

Even more so now, he said.

Nationally, the NYSP has gotten along with $18 million a year the federal government has provided since 1969, the programs first year. Host colleges and universities across the country also bolster the program by providing volunteers and the use of campus facilities. The program has served 80,000 children in 48 states, and West Virginia, along with its NYSP offering at WVU , also has sites at Bluefield State College, West Virginia State University and Marshall University.

Increased interest in Homeland Security programs has put that funding at risk for Fiscal Year 2006.

I just know its a good program,Wilmoth said.It helps a lot of people.

The Ejimofor family surely agrees.

Chibuzor enjoyed meeting kids from other schools and playing sports. He sharpened his study-habit skills, too, he said. Kelechi like forging new friendships, too, and said hed like to be an NYSP volunteer when he gets older.

And Chinwe was just jazzed because she learned how to swim at the camp.

But Mom wont let me dive,she said.Not yet.

Amanda smiled at her children and said the NYSP is teaching them skills theyll use for the rest of their days.

The other day I looked in on one of the groups and they were designing bridges with popsicle sticks and rubber bands,she said.They were using actual design principles and they were problem-solving. They were actually learning how to think. The NYSP really made the summer for my kids.