Justin Walker, executive director of Global Game Changers | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Justin Walker, executive director of Global Game Changers | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Mayor Greg Fischer joined community and school leaders at the Muhammad Ali Center on Wednesday to announce a partnership between the center and Global Game Changers to provide an after-school program for 50 at-risk elementary school students.

Starting this week, 50 students from Whitney Young Elementary in west Louisville will spend every day after school for 16 weeks going through the Global Game Changers educational program. Justin Walker, executive director of the program and a law professor at University of Louisville, said the program will teach them every day that “no matter where you come from and no matter how young you are, you can make a difference in the world.”

The program teaches children through the equation: My Talent + My Heart = My Superpower. That means if you take your talent — whether that’s singing or playing chess or playing basketball — and combine it with a cause that moves you, you can make a difference.

“Many of these children are told far too often, in a hundred subtle and unsubtle ways, that they’re not important, that they’re not talented, and that they can’t make a difference,” said Walker. “They will now be spending every afternoon learning the opposite — that each of us has the ability, and the responsibility, to make our corner of the world a little better for our having been here.”

Mayor Fischer talks to Americorps workers | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Mayor Fischer talks to AmeriCorps workers. | Photo by Melissa Chipman

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendant Donna Hargens declared she has the “best job in Louisville” on mornings like today. She said the most at-risk kids in Louisville enter sixth grade 6,000 enrichment hours behind the average student. Those hours come from after-school programs, sports, parental interactions, cultural events, etc.

The Global Game Changers project will bring in mentors and guest speakers and plan service learning projects for the kids.

Mayor Fischer lauded this program as being a great part of the Compassionate City movement. He said every child dreams of being a superhero, but that a superhero isn’t just great because of his or her powers, but because of goodness. He said the program is a great example of Muhammad Ali’s message of human potential.

Donald Lassere, president of the Ali Center, also announced the center will offer free memberships to any Jefferson County family currently on the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program. More than 3,000 families receive some sort of financial assistance through KTAP, and they have more than 5,000 children.

Lassere said one of his favorite Ali quotes is: “What you are thinking about is what you are becoming.” He said the free memberships will bring kids to the center so they can start thinking about “becoming great.”