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.
The vision of MBI PAL is to be the top-leading juvenile prevention organization providing various youth development and mentoring programs to all communities in Memphis/Shelby County and surrounding area.
The mission of MBI PAL is to provide school-age youth the opportunity to develop their intellectual, social and physical well-being in a fun, exciting and safe environment, while promoting the prevention of juvenile crime and violence by building positive relationships among kids, cops and communities.
MBI PAL is a non-profit organization devoted to ensuring youth reaches their full potential by serving as a vehicle to foster excellence through positive engagement during the most critical times, after-school and summer months. We believe that every child is given unique gifts that can be best actualized when given the proper tools and guidance.
MBI PAL offers after school and summer curriculums in Educational Assistance, Mentoring Opportunities, Discovery Skills, Intervention Services, Nutritional Awareness and Sport Competitions to keep little bodies active and minds learning year-round. These various components work together to assist youth in becoming intelligent well-rounded individuals with good character and a desire to succeed. The program bridges the cultural divide by bringing young people together from different social, economic and cultural backgrounds, in efforts to close the achievement gap and prevent juvenile crime.