Tuesday, May 13th Laguna Development Corporation held the inaugural Laguna Sports Academy Volleyball Banquet at the new Route 66 Casino Hotel. The volleyball program is part of the Laguna Sports Academy, an effort spearheaded by Laguna Development Corporation (LDC) and managed by Mary Cheresposy, Tribal Programs Manager for LDC and Kyle James, Health & Wellness Coordinator. The mission of the Laguna Sports Academy is to provide a high level of quality instruction to the student-athletes of the Laguna-Acoma area, while offering an avenue to those who want to use athletics as a tool to succeed in life. “We teach youth to use sports rather than letting sports use them,” commented Kyle James, Health & Wellness Coordinator. The program emphasizes five core values: hard work, loyalty, confidence, discipline and focus.

The volleyball program was launched March 1st, and was the first initiative for the Sports Academy. The program was offered to middle school girls, ages 12-14. Each child was required to take part in formal tryouts, apply for the program and maintain a 2.5 GPA, a higher than normal GPA requirement for sports programs. The volleyball team was coached by Head Coach, Ben Wallis and Assistant Coach Jerry Sprouse. The team is endorsed by Nike and participated in competitive leagues, making a remarkable first season.

In recognition of the importance of the Laguna Sports Academy and the achievements of the volleyball team, top UNM Volleyball Star, Ms. Gayle Tripp, gave an inspiring speech to the group at the banquet. Governor Antonio gave out awards for academic achievements and Laguna Development Corporation President, Jerry Smith and Board Member Ron Solimon offered encouraging words and spoke to the future for Laguna youth.

Laguna Development Corporation plans on expanding the Laguna Sports Academy to include basketball and other sports, and looks forward to growing the program offerings for all age groups. The Laguna Sports Academy is part of a larger LDC initiative to positively impact the health and wellness of the community of Laguna.