UNION, NJ — The Kean University Building Stronger Urban Communities program, which introduces students to higher education through athletics, officially launched at Kean in January with a basketball tournament featuring four New Jersey high schools.
The KUBS Invitational Basketball Tournament was on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Kean’s Harwood Arena, from noon to 6 p.m., with the boys and girls teams from Ewing High School, Trenton Central High School, Hillside High School and Medford’s Lenape High School facing off in a series of four games.
As New Jersey’s urban research university, Kean works to address the underrepresentation of minority and low-income youths in higher education, athletics, the arts and STEM.
“As Kean positions itself as an urban anchor institution in New Jersey, we are creating opportunities for students in urban communities to take part in impactful scholarship, service learning and community programs,” said Kean University President Lamont O. Repollet. “KUBS will also allow our Kean student-athletes to make a difference by working with and mentoring young people from urban communities.”
Kean’s Division of Transformational Learning and External Affairs and Kean Athletics created KUBS, which will also expand access to niche sports such as lacrosse and golf, tennis and field hockey.
Representatives of Kean’s offices of admissions and financial aid, as well as Kean Athletics, the Student Athlete Council and more were on campus to meet with the high school athletes and answer any questions during the tournament.
“This is our opportunity to connect with communities that will be participating in the KUBS activities to enhance and increase exposure to Kean and college in general,” said Joseph Youngblood, senior vice president for transformational learning and external affairs at Kean. “It’s our opportunity to utilize athletics and sports to have a deeper level of engagement with students.”
KUBS’ partners include Trenton, Long Branch, Ewing and Hillside.
The KUBS program took its first steps at Kean last year, with a pilot event that brought approximately 100 black and Latino boys to Kean for a lacrosse clinic. The event was a success, Youngblood said.
“Students from urban backgrounds typically don’t have access to sports like lacrosse due to the cost of the sport and the level of training needed,” he said.
Kean graduate Michael Shapiro ’21 earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and played on the men’s lacrosse team at Kean. He now works as the KUBS coordinator and assistant coach of the lacrosse team.
Shapiro, who helped run the pilot event, said KUBS is about giving students “the chance to potentially fall in love with something” that can lead to future opportunities.
“Without lacrosse, I don’t think I would’ve had the experiences, relationships or opportunities that came my way in my life. That is what I try to instill in our Kean players and those picking up the sport for the first time,” Shapiro said, adding that KUBS also lets Kean student-athletes and others develop leadership skills as mentors.
“That way when they leave this university, they stand out with the resume they’ve built for job and career opportunities.”
Photo Courtesy of Kean University