AURORA – When responsible adults start putting kids first again, things might get better.
In too many places, it hasn’t happened yet.
The latest example is the cancellation of the A-Town All-Stars game, a fantasy showcase set up by The Sentinel newspaper. It brings together Aurora’s best basketball players, boys and girls, for one last night of prom.
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This is the sixth year of A-Town. It was supposed to be, anyway, until Cherry Creek Schools decided to call off the game on Monday due to a threat of violence. Sounds like a safe move, right?
“It was a mistake,” said Jason McBride, a longtime youth violence prevention specialist who works with Denver’s Struggle of Love. “These kids need more opportunities, not less.”
Remove that word, “sure.” It’s dishonest coverage.
I will trust Jason McBride on these matters. He is at the heart of rising youth violence in the Denver metro, doing his best to prevent shootings like the a near Aurora Central, or the a near Hinkley, or the a near Overland, where the match was to be played.
“These children have already lost the last two years that they are not recovering (due to the state’s COVID-19 response). Why are we still taking away opportunities from them? said McBride.
And I’m sure I’m going to trust men like him over the districts and teacher unions who claimed to be distance learning and masketball and the closures during the COVID racket were in the best interest of the children. People can argue about a lot of COVID stuff, but school closures aren’t one of them. One of us wrote during two years these horrible things would happen, and guess what happened?
Track records matter.
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These days, Colorado’s track record for putting kids first is crap. Distance learning hit black and brown children the hardest. Responsible adults mandated masks for Colorado athletes while kids could see on Instagram that Utah and Kansas had no such thing. Now they’re canceling games when games are exactly what a lot of kids could use – a chance to show off their hard work and athletic talent will be rewarded when they put that hard work and athletic talent to good use.
No, not in Colorado. Instead of rewarding teenage athletes, Colorado takes the CYA approach.
“It’s still the CYA approach,” McBride said.
Time and again, Colorado has put the onus of responsibility on the children, and it should never be. This is how you end up with a pediatric mental health problem emergency state and, as McBride predicted, “in store for the worst summer of violence we’ve ever had.”
“And it will continue to get worse until we start putting kids first,” McBride said.
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A high school all-star game probably doesn’t seem like a big deal for adults, and that’s because it’s not a big deal for adults. But I can tell you that an all-star game is the biggest deal for 16 and 17 year olds chosen to play in the game. What size? That big: The man who started the A-Town All-Stars as a labor of love six years ago, Courtney Oakes, estimates that 95% of kids selected for the game have actually played in the game. is a very high number for a high school all-star game.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to represent programs that maybe weren’t in the state tournament or won a bunch of games. That’s their stage,” said Oakes, who makes tremendous and tireless work as a 20-year veteran of The Sentinel.
And he is adored by children.
Grandview great Michaela Onyenwere, the WNBA Rookie of the Year, played in the A-Town game. So did Fran Belibi, a Regis star, and Lauren Betts, a die-hard Grandview fan. Graham Ike (Overland) from Wyoming, Colbey Ross (Eaglecrest) from Pepperdine, Laolu Oke (Overland) from Metro State – all played in City A, not to mention a bunch of other kids who weren’t good enough to play college ball, but they still had the A-Town All-Stars to tell their buddies.
Except in 2020 when the state’s response to COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the game.
And in 2022 when the event was canceled due to a threat of violence on social media.
It’s twice in three years that the best basketball players in this city have had their night taken away.
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About the threat of violence: The Aurora Police Department told me that they “plan to increase our presence at the A-Town All-Stars game on Monday night. In our conversations with Cherry Creek School staff, the Aurora Police Department was confident in the additional security measures and left the final decision to cancel the event in the hands of school officials. .
There are of course two sides to every story, so I reached out to Cherry Creek Schools for his side. The district said it worked with multiple law enforcement agencies after being made aware of a social media threat.
“We know how important this is for kids and families and we really hope we can (play) on another date,” a district spokesperson said.
Good. Reschedule and play the game. It’s a game, but cancellations, closures and disruptions take their toll, and horrible things take their place.