William Augustus Perry MS Wrestling Grant Recipient
William Augustus Perry Middle School is located in Columbia, South Carolina. W. A. Perry is an urban Title I school serving a little over 300 students. The school has a 96.5% African American population and a poverty index of 97.1%. Within our school district, we have the highest rates for both and one of the smallest school populations. This has led to an overall low participation rate in athletics, in turn, leading to low success rates for athletic teams.
The 2021-22 school year marked the inaugural season for the W. A. Perry wrestling team. With our feeder high school having a wrestling team for less than 10 years, wrestling is a new sport for our community. With the creation of the Black Wrestling Association (BWA), the first black female Olympic Gold Medalist (Tamyra Mensah-Stock), and half of the NCAA Division I National Champions being African American, the first season of wrestling could not have come at a better time for our athletes.
With the addition of wrestling to our athletic program, for the first time ever, athletes have had the choice of sports to participate in. Athletes were able to choose between wrestling or basketball. Until this addition, athletes only had the opportunity to participate in basketball within the school. In the spring, there is only track and field and in the fall there is only one option for males (football) and one option for (females). Other than track, wrestling is the only individual-team sport offered at our school.
Our district had previously taken on the responsibility of purchasing a mat, singlets, and headgear for our team. This left our athletes to buy, arguably, the most expensive piece of equipment themselves: wrestling shoes. Although athletes providing their own shoes for most wrestling teams is not uncommon, it is a deal breaker for a lot of our families to ask them to take a chance with a new sport that they themselves do not have experience with and spend upwards of $60 off the break.
Through the grant assistance from R.E.A.C.H.E.S., we were able to purchase 40+ shoes to get our program off and running. With this grant, and the shoes purchased, our program will feel the benefit for the next couple of years.
Although it has been a slow start, as in most new wrestling teams, our athletes have shown great improvement and promise as much off the mat as on it. In the few short months we have seen the discipline, maturity, confidence, and acceptance of others increase for all athletes involved. At has been a joy to watch the world of wrestling open up around them and the other students and adults at our school. Even on our team shirts we boast of the “New Culture” that has been created with our wrestling team. We have been proud to offer the same opportunities to both males and females at the same time and foster a cohesive relationship and notion of the abilities of both, no matter the opponent.
As anyone that has been around the sport of wrestling knows, it teaches you a different set of skills. These skills stick with you throughout your life and make you a better person in many ways. We have had the privilege to teach and watch these athletes become more and R.E.A.C.H.E.S. has had the ability to impact teams that are in need of assistance far beyond the grants and products they are able to supply. With the grant from R.E.A.C.H.E.S., W. A. Perry Middle was able to begin our “New Culture” in a much more seamless manner and will continue to impact the athletes that will feed through our school.
Thank you R.E.A.C.H.E.S.! Your grant is only outweighed by the opportunity provided!
R.E.A.C.H.E.S. (Rewarding Educational Athletic Choices Helping Each Sport) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2007 in an effort to promote, protect and preserve the integrity of amateur athletics by providing athletic and educational opportunities to all athletes of all ages and abilities. This unique experience will provide educational, technical, and lifelong lessons for athletes, coaches, parents and fans that seek to capture meaningful, compassionate, harmonious, interesting and active lives. All profits from R.E.A.C.H.E.S. will be used to support specific needs in each sport to ensure future generations of athletes, fans, parents and coaches will continue to learn from valuable lifelong athletic lessons.