CFISD football players lead districtwide camp for LIFE Skills students
Bridgeland High School football players set up during a running station at Camp Courage on May 16 at Cypress Falls High School. The districtwide skills camp is for middle school and high school students enrolled in LIFE Skills classes and designed for them to learn sports skills and experience the camaraderie within a team. Thirty-four LIKE Skills students participated and were assisted by more than 100 student-athletes from all 12 CFISD high schools. (Photo by Maiya Brown, Cypress Falls HS)
By Valerie Okey-Ejiowhor, Mia Vargas and Maiya Brown, Cypress Falls HS
May 24, 2023—In an effort to allow equal opportunity for all students, Cypress Falls High School hosted its annual Camp Courage on May 16. The districtwide skills camp is for middle school and high school students enrolled in LIFE Skills classes and designed for them to learn sports skills and experience the camaraderie of players within a team.
The camp began as a campuswide effort at Cypress Falls in 2019. Head Football Coach and Athletic Coordinator Chris Brister was inspired by Chris Massey, an old colleague and the former head coach at Deer Park High School. Massey pushed Brister to start the program, doing so the first year with only 13 participants.
That first year, the Golden Eagle football players led sports-specific drills for the students enrolled in the LIFE Skills program, which assists participants with special needs in learning functional communication and academic skills.
Camp Courage has now spread across the entire district with all 12 high school football programs participating. The Cypress Falls cheerleaders even led a station to help participants learn routines and cheer skills.
“It makes them very appreciative of what they’ve been given and gives them good health and ability to go play a game at any time that they want in an effective way,” Brister said. “More than anything, it’s just gratitude for being able to play their sport.”
Cypress Ranch High School football players help a Camp Courage participate adjust a football helmet for a photo during the districtwide skills camp on May 16 at Cypress Falls High School. More than 100 student-athletes from all 12 CFISD high schools came together to work the camp. (Photo by Valerie Okey-Ejiowhor, Cypress Falls HS)
In total, the camp hosted 34 participants.
“It was really exciting to see all the smiles on their faces and how much we've made their day better,” Cypress Falls junior Brayden Bittner said. “It's a cool opportunity to connect with kids you really wouldn't see very often. You form connections otherwise you wouldn't have.”
Stations were set up inside and around the gymnasiums. Camp participants were able to learn and practice skills that including tackling and throwing. A photo backdrop was also set up with helmets for photo opportunities.
Participants were able to freely move around each of the stations where they were met by players who helped assist them in the skills required for that station. For some stations, participants were teammates from the same school. But in others, student-athletes who compete against each other in the fall worked side-by-side to promote a positive experience.
“To be honest, I actually wanted to cry. Not in like sadness, but tears of joy because it was cool to see,” Langham Creek junior Jordan Washington said.
A Camp Courage participant is congratulated following a kick attempt during one of the stations. More than 100 student-athletes representing all 12 CFISD high schools worked together to provide a positive experience for camp participants. (Photo by Maiya Brown, Cypress Falls HS)
Added Cypress Falls junior Clayton Meekins: “I feel like what makes Camp Courage so unique is just the chance we’re giving kids that weren't as lucky as us. My favorite highlight was definitely seeing how happy the kids were after they got the opportunities we get to do on the field.”
More than 105 student-athletes helped to work at Camp Courage. Brister said he was proud of CFISD students coming together for a positive experience.
“We work these guys really hard sometimes,” he said. “Some of the guys that you think are some of the quietest kids when they get around a situation like this, they’re the best ones we’ve had. There wasn’t a kid out there that we brought that didn’t have a good time and I know the campers did too.”
Camp Courage participants pose for a group photo following the event on May 16 at Cypress Falls High School. The annual camp features sports-specific drills for the students enrolled in the LIFE Skills program and is helped facilitated by student-athletes from all 12 CFISD high schools. (Photo by Valerie Okey-Ejiowhor, Cypress Falls HS)