EMMITSBURG, Md. - Senior Leah Westbrooks (Dublin, Ireland/Holy Faith Secondary School), a member of the Mount St. Mary's University women's basketball team, has been named the recipient of Shooting Touch Inc. Sabbatical Program grant.
Westbrooks will receive a grant for $25,000 to help with travel cost and expenses on her 10-month international independent study in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Westbrooks will travel to South Africa to work with the Hoops for Hope group and then will spend the bulk of her time in Western Zimbabwe with the Matilda Project.
"Basketball has always been a stress reliever for me and something fun," said Westbrooks. "To have that chance to bring that aspect of enjoyment to those kids is a dream come true."
"Leah epitomizes the top student athlete who has incorporated caring commitment with athletic and academic excellence," says Mount St. Mary's University President Thomas Powell. "We are very proud that Leah is part of the Mount community."
Hoops for Hope is a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with Basketball Beyond Borders. The organization uses basketball and soccer to help those less fortunate and get them off of the streets to cultivate an environment for learning and confidence to have a better lifestyle. Westbrooks will spend two months with this group and will help out with their summer camp in South Africa that runs during the month of August.
The Matilda Project is a non-profit organization that works with home base care volunteers to bring basic aid and supplies to people suffering from HIV and AIDs. In addition, the group works with orphans and children with health education and providing basic supplies to areas that would not normally be reached. Westbrooks looks to spend seven or eight months working with this program and looks to help start sports camps and clinics while also helping out with the HIV and AIDs patient care.
Shooting Touch is based on the premise that basketball's positive influence on the lives of children can improve the world around them. Shooting Touch, Inc. has three goals: to help EDUCATE young people about life skills including setting and achieving goals; to MENTOR all players and give support whenever needed; and to COACH the fundamentals of basketball to improve individual confidence both on and off the court. They have established a first-of-its-kind, 'Sabbatical Program' that will grant select graduating college seniors the rare opportunity to experience a 10-month international, independent study anywhere in the world. The program mission is to give back to the global community and create positive social change through the sport of basketball.
"As soon as I received the information about this grant I thought of Leah and forwarded it to her immediately," said Mount St. Mary's women's basketball head coach Bryan Whitten. "She and I have talked in the past about what she wanted to do after graduating and serving others have always been at the top of her list. She wanted to go to Africa and do camps prior to ever hearing about this opportunity and was already talking to others about helping with the finances. I am glad grant will now make it easier for her to live her dream. She is a special person and will undoubtedly make a positive impact on the lives of many."
Westbrooks is a senior forward on the Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team. She is averaging 2.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game this season. For her career, Westbrooks has 563 points and 565 rebounds in 90 games, including 73 starts.