Youth Academy of Dreams (YAOD) is the latest addition to the Kids, Cops & Community initiatives began by Memphis Police Department Sergeant Craig Littles. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Memphis Bears Incorporated (MBI), a nonprofit sports program that began in 1996 to assist at-risk youth in the Frayser community. With the help of childhood friends as volunteers, Sgt. Littles began fulfilling his passion and purpose of positively impacting youth.
MBI began with just 25 boys and 5 girls and today it serves approximately 200 to 250 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 18. With the assistance of over 80 professional adult volunteers, the program offers basketball, baseball, cheerleading, football, softball, track and field and more. Youth learn the value of hard work, teamwork, and sportsmanship as well as receive life skills training, academic tutoring and bond with caring mentors who want them to succeed.
In 2014, a partnership was formed between the National Police Activities League (NPAL) and Memphis and Shelby County law enforcement creating Memphis Shelby PAL (MSPAL). Its primary goal is to address declining success rates among youth and high juvenile delinquency. MSPAL combines community service, positive youth development and organized sports under the direction of dedicated law enforcement officers who serve as coaches, referees, and mentors. The first year, over 600 youth enrolled in the program with over 200 volunteers leading its success. Sgt. Littles programs have been recognized for their positive impact by the City of Memphis and Shelby County Government.
For the past 25 years, Sgt. Littles has been working to create a facility where these youth services could be managed while providing a safe, nurturing location for youth to receive the guidance and assistance they need to excel. His dream has now been realized with Youth Academy of Dreams. It is housed in Littles’ alma mater, Trezevant High School, in a wing of the building that was no longer being utilized. Youth Academy of Dreams will begin operating during the 2018/2019 school year and will become one of the premiere after school and summer programs in the City of Memphis.
This feat could not have been accomplished without the support of various community partners: Nike, Sherwin Williams, Sparco, Spaces Group, City of Memphis Credit Union, Shelby County Schools, City of Memphis City Council, Shelby County Commission, Shelby County Government, Memphis Police Department, and the Shelby County Sherriff’s Office. Dedicated volunteers make up the YAOD staff and Grand Board. We are grateful for their support and guidance but most importantly, their love for the youth of Memphis and Shelby County.
Click here to learn more about the Youth Academy of Dreams programs.