Grassroots Still Growing in New Haven Neighborhoods

Pequeñas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven has provided sports and arts programs to Latino youth in New Haven for over 20 years.The programs give kids the support and skills to succeed on and off the playing court, all while in a nurturing, familial environment.

It began 19 years ago in a dark, old, dusty gym at Fair Haven Middle School. A dream, to have a team of Latina volleyball players from New Haven neighborhoods take home first place medals in a USA Volleyball tournament.

That dream came true earlier this year, when the New Haven Volleyball Academy 14 team won a New England Region Volleyball Association 14B tournament in its debut performance.

Photo courtesy of Pequeñas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven.

"It was a historic moment in New Haven youth sports," explains Peter Noble, director of Pequeñas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven. "The investment that we and The Community Foundation have made in our efforts to develop girls' sports is paying dividends."

Pequeñas Ligas runs a Girls NCAA-Bound Volleyball and Multi-Sport program that is meant to engage Latina youth in New Haven with different sports and feed them into high school and college athletics. According to Noble, the program helps to address the under-representation of Hispanic women in intercollegiate athletics. The New Haven Volleyball Academy's students have represented 10 high schools and 9 colleges/universities in the three NCAA divisions and the NJCAA. Among its alumni are college and club coaches, and the first college sand volleyball player from Connecticut.

Noble has been there from the beginning, when a group of parents and concerned neighbors in Fair Haven saw a need to organize and provide constructive activities for their kids. Utilizing resources at nearby New Haven public schools and city parks, this grassroots organization has been running year-round sports – and arts – programs for New Haven youth, with support from the Community Fund for Women & Girls and unrestricted funds at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, for more than two decades.

The programs give Latino kids the support and skills to succeed on and off the playing court, all while in a nurturing, familial environment.

"Once you enter Pequeñas Ligas, you enter a family," says Noble, proudly announcing what each child in a photo from The Community Foundation's 2005 annual report is doing today. "We still have parents from that original 1996 volleyball group actively involved; and now their kids (the original students) have brought their own children into the program. We get the kids playing; they go to college; they come back and build a strong community. I think we've been successful."

You can learn more about Pequeñas Ligas Hispanas de New Haven by viewing its website.

Did You Know?

In 2012, women of Latino heritage held only 7.4 percent of the degrees earned by women overall, though they constituted 16 percent of the female population.

Source: Center for American Progress