Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf teams up with community for basketball camp

Posted by Jesse Barkey on Jul 28, 2019 in News

The thump thump thump of basketballs on the the gym floor wasn’t heard by all.

Nor were the squeaks of shoes, or the sweet swish of a ball sliding through the net.

But there was no way tell which kids could hear and which couldn’t as they ran up and down the court this week inside the gym at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Edgewood.

“Basketball is and has been a great unifier in society, it’s accessible to kids from all backgrounds,” said Mike Fratangelo, co-founder of DiverseCity, a nonprofit that sponsors programs that uses sport to unite youth from different backgrounds. “Essentially, we’re helping kids learn to get along with others that are different.”

DiverseCity holds basketball camps across the area. The group held a camp at the school for kids who are deaf or hearing impaired. The camp puts deaf kids and kids who can hear on the same teams.

That’s the aim of DiverseCity, Fratangelo said. Black and white, rich and poor, kids from urban neighborhoods and the suburbs are brought together around love for basketball, Fratangelo said. The kids who participate also learn values like integrity and empathy and communication skills that will help them on and off the court, he said.

“We’re taking kids from communities that rarely have the opportunity to interact with one another and giving them the opportunity to create meaningful relationships,” he said.

This is the second summer DiverseCity has teamed up with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. About 50 kids have attended each of the last three weeks at day camps on the school campus.

The school’s athletic director, Val Wojton III, is thrilled about the partnership. Wojton is deaf and grew up playing sports with kids who can hear in Ford City.

“I wanted to see other deaf people have those opportunities,” Wojton said through an interpreter.

One of the deaf students, Bernie Elliott, 14, who will be a freshman at WPSD this year, said the kids work their way through any communication barrier.

“We get to learn from each other,” Elliott said using sign language and an interpreter.

Most of the time, interpreters aren’t needed to talk with other kids, Elliott said. They communicate using text messages, he said.

Watching the kids find ways to communicate with each other is “very cool,” Wojton said.

Finn Hutchison, 13, who will be in eighth grade at Franklin Regional this fall, said the camp is a lot of fun. It is Finn’s second year at the camp. It’s improved his basketball skills and he’s made new friends, he said.

“Before, I was more of a ball hog, but now I pass a lot more,” Finn said.

Devon Dean said the experience at the camp was “pretty cool.” Devon, 14, will be in eighth grade at West Mifflin.

“It’s entertaining because we go to class, we learn stuff, communication, leadership, self confidence, and then we play the games,” Dean said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, tdavidson@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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Camper, Anthony Scott 15, of Turtle Creek, attempts a lay-up during during one of DiverseCity’s camps held at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. DiverseCity is a non-profit that sponsors sports programs that bring together youth from different backgrounds.
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Campers watch as basketball is played during one of DiverseCity’s camps held at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. DiverseCity is a non-profit that sponsors sports programs that bring together youth from different backgrounds.
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Camp Director, Mike Fratangelo talks to campers during one of DiverseCity’s camps held at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. DiverseCity is a non-profit that sponsors sports programs that bring together youth from different backgrounds.
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Camp Director, Mike Fratangelo talks to campers during one of DiverseCity’s camps held at Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. DiverseCity is a non-profit that sponsors sports programs that bring together youth from different backgrounds.

This articles is published by the TribLive on Friday, July 26, 2019 by Tom Davison.

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