“My daughter has grown in all areas by being in the program. She has improved her attitude, patience, and her school skills. Her grades have definitely improved. She is more of a people person now. She talks and interacts with others more."

These are one parent’s words about a girl in the Baltimore City Lacrosse and Leadership (BCLL) program. Over 40 middle school girls are being positively impacted through this school-based intervention program at The Commodore John Rodgers School. Lacrosse has become an effective tool in engaging under-served urban youth. Each day, time is spent in the classroom, in study hall, and on the field to build a brighter future for these girls.

BCLL began in 2014 as an expansion effort of Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership (HLL). HLL’s co-founder, Simon Cataldo, originally started the program while he was working as a special education math teacher with Teach for America at Frederick Douglass Academy in New York. He introduced the sport of lacrosse to his most academically and behaviorally challenged students and saw great improvements. These students posted the highest scores on the state math test by special education students in the school’s history.

As the team grew and continued to be successful, HLL was formed and expanded to include boys and girls teams at several different schools. BCLL is the first program in Baltimore and the first program outside of New York. Through lacrosse, the girls learn how to be disciplined and committed, and to work together on and off the field to achieve their goals as student-athletes.

A 7th grade student says, “I like being in BCLL because it is fun. I have become a better player and I have gotten good at cradling, catching, and shooting. I have become a better student too. Instead of getting 1s and 2s, now I get 3s and 4s. I have a tutor to help me with my homework and to help me with things I don’t understand.”

This holistic approach to making a positive impact is giving each girl an opportunity to forge a new path for her life. It also broadens their academic future. BCLL students achieve an average core class GPA increase between 5-10 points each year.

Middle school participants have a 100% graduation rate. They strive to attend the best high schools in the city and county, and they dream of graduating college. Many of them would be the first in their family to do so.

BCLL is improving physical literacy. Most of the girls that participate had never played a sport before. Now they exercise for 6-10 hours per week, year-round. The program is helping them become better individuals.

Part of the program is a social-emotional curriculum and the girls have full-time support during the school day to help them with any behavioral, social, and emotional challenges. The students have improved in their overall citizenship, culture, and peer relationships.

“Being in the program taught us that fighting isn't the answer so we need to figure out how to get along with our teammates," said one student. "When I first started there were a lot of girls I didn't like. But then I got to know them and we started to like each other and we became friends.”