On Jun. 23 at Tenaya Middle School’s basketball court took place an event coordinated by Jesse Ornelas and Rise & Lift. This new event called, Merced Ballerz, was a hit for it being the first ever. Many youths from the ages 14-17 showed up with their teams of three to a basketball showdown for the big money prizes.
I decided to go around and ask some of the youth who attended, “Why do you think events like these are beneficial for a community like ours?” Here are the basketball players and what they had to say:
“I think things like this are good because it brings the community together, and it gets to let everyone know each other and to make friends,” Raymond Cameron, 17, said.
“I would say that this event helps people get recognized,” Alizha Winzer, 15, said, adding that “this brings people closer together”.
These are three basketball players from the team “Los Perros,” Jonathan Maldonado, 17, said “This is beneficial to the community because it brings everyone together in a nice friendly way.” Ian Perez, 17, recognized that, “Events like this are good because they get you out of the house during the summer and keeps us out of trouble.” Angel Calvillo, 17, said, “I think events like these are beneficial to our community because it brings all the kids together, gives them something to do like play sports instead of being out on the streets.”
“I think why this benefits us is because you can have fun and it’s like really good for our community,” Damon Ramirez, 16, said.
The two questions I asked Jesse were, “Why do you think of putting on this event? Why did you think it would be beneficial for our community?” Jesse explained that he was not the original one to come up with this event. He said, “I actually wanted to do something else, but we’re doing youth work and it’s not really about what adults want to do.” The youth from Rise & Lift wanted to do the Merced Ballerz event. He said, “I’m really glad they thought of it, they had a hand in everything they did.” He began to reply to the second part of the question and started to say, “I think it is really important to do activities that are custom made for black and brown youth to come out, especially in south Merced.” Jesse continued to explain that this event could’ve been at UC Merced, but they decided to do it at Tenaya, because he felt this was the “heart of South Merced.”
Attending this event, I was not expecting as much youth to come out and participate as there was, because of this event being on the south side. Also, sometimes it can be hard for the youth on the south side to get information for events like these. It was heartwarming to see the youth of a community that is a lot of the times under-looked and being brought together. When we create opportunities for the minorities of a community we see growth within that community and positive change. With so much gang violence in Merced, we need to let our youth know, especially in the south side that gangs are not all they have. Events like Merced Ballerz give youth a chance to meet other youth that share the same interests: basketball.
Also, way to go the winners of the first annual Merced Ballerz, the AirBallerz!