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The Waitsburg Times:

Why not "Waitsburg Prescott Jubilee?"

Youth ranch now big part of WP combine success

The Waitsburg TimesIn 2009, the first year of the Waitsburg Prescott combine, all of two Jubilee athletes participated in the program: one in football and one in track.

This school year (2012 – 2013), athletes from the ranch for at-risk teenage boys in Eureka took up 34 slots on Cardinals and Tigers teams, including 11 in football, 5 in cross country, 8 in basketball, 5 in wrestling and 7 in baseball. We say "slots" here because a number of athletes play multiple sports.

In the Sports Section of this week's edition, we're featuring one of the Jubilee boys, runner James Thompkins, who is poised to win the 2B state championship in the 400-meter track event and has been receiving scholarship letters from several colleges in his junior year.

He exemplifies the ranch's contribution to the combine. Jubilee is now unquestionably one of the three legs of the three-legged stool with Waitsburg and Prescott representing the two other legs.

Coaches in all three places credit Jubilee's executive director Rick Griffin with the turnaround in the ranch's participation in the combine and the predictability of its players' eligibility.

"Rick is a huge sports guy," noted head track and football coach Jeff Bartlow. "He believes it's a huge part of the answer. It helps them stay focused on positive things."

Griffin has been on board pretty much since the ranch was founded in 1994 and started with its first full school year in 1995. He took a five-year break in 2004 and returned in 2009, the year the WP combine started.

If anyone, Griffin should know the importance of sports to teenage boys. He was a successful high school athlete, running the 100-meter sprint, among others, and winning a track scholarship at the University of Wyoming in 1982 as a long jumper and a runner.

"Sports were a big part of my upbringing," Griffin said. "It's about team building. We want young men to have that same opportunity here."

Jubilee currently has 54 high school-aged residents. They come from as close as Washington state, Idaho and Oregon, and as far as Chicago and New York with most fleeing from tough neighborhoods, gangs, drugs or broken families.

Thompkins, who grew up in parts of Chicago that are described by some as the "third world," is a case in point. He either heard gun shots himself or heard about shootings from others several times a week. He honed his street skills as a runner to get out of trouble quickly. He was a survivor from his own broken family. His dad left when he was 2. What Jubilee instills in these boys is a newfound sense of family, an ability to make contributions and sacrifices for the greater good of their community or their team, Griffin said. "They haven't been a part of much (when they reach Jubilee). Hopefully, by being a part of a unity through good or bad, they don't relive the old patterns when they have a family themselves."

At Jubilee, he explained, being a member of a combine sports team is a privilege, not a birthright. To be eligible, athletes need to have at least a B average, half a point more than eligibility requirements at regular high schools. The required class load is 9-10 credits, three or four more credits than elsewhere, Griffin said.

The recent increase in Jubilee participation came from its students' success in the Cardinals' 2011 state football title game at the Tacoma Dome, to which the ranch sent a big delegation of more than 40 fans, thanks to a generous donor. Lots of residents in the stands saw what their fellow residents were doing on the turf and wanted to be a part of it.

Thompkins' success too is an inspiration for his fellow residents, who see his success as something they can reach for as well.

Thompkins, Griffin said, is "a great role model" for how these teenagers can break from their trajectory of trouble and into a life of opportunity, while bringing honor to a combine that I think may as well be called Waitsburg Prescott Jubilee.

View the official article on The Waitsburg Times' website

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For more information about Jubilee Leadership Academy, please call 509-749-2103, or email us.