by James King
In the summer of 2004, Judy Grossman read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle that changed the course of her life. The article, by Gwen Knapp, outlined the struggles of the athletic director and soccer players of Mission High School, where 18 student-athletes needed funding to go a summer camp at UC Berkeley to hone their soccer skills.
However, with such a limited athletic department budget, Mission High could not afford to send the students. In the article, the athletic director, Scott Kennedy, explained that there were other reasons for going that were more important than improving the abilities of Mission’s players. It was about giving these students something to do off the streets and away from the dangers that sometimes follow underprivileged urban youth.
“When I read the article, I called the athletic director,” Grossman explained, and although it was unclear at the time, the Athletic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP) was about to be born.
Grossman, a native San Franciscan who had made a career in the financial sector, had always been interested in community service. She was consistently involved in her son’s schools and her neighborhood and she had volunteered for “school boards, and school committees, and community boards.” However, with her son in college and her job requiring only a part-time commitment, she found inspiration in Knapp’s article. As a mother herself, she felt for the teens mentioned in the Chronicle and she wanted to help.
Grossman contacted the high school and voiced her desire to contribute. Expecting to hear that money was pouring in following the Chronicle piece, she was shocked to hear that there had been no contributions. As Grossman explains, Kennedy told her: “I have gotten a lot of phone calls but no money.”
Despite her reluctance to fundraise, she determined that she would call around and try to get the donations needed for the students to attend camp. Not long after contacting Mission High, Grossman raised enough money to meet the goal. The students would go to soccer camp.
Grossman said this was quite out of character for her, as she does not see herself as the type of person who would contact a school or any organization to volunteer.
“I had never struck out on my own and picked up the phone to call a stranger, and I said: ‘I can do this.'”
After accomplishing the goal of helping Mission High School send the students to the UC Berkeley camp, Grossman wanted to do more.
“By the time we got enough to send them to camp, we realized this could be so much bigger and better,” Grossman said.
With the approval and help of Mission High’s principal, Grossman teamed with Kennedy to set up a program to help student athletes.
As Grossman, Kennedy and others at Mission High School worked together, they developed the Academic Scholars Advancement Program (ASAP). Before long, it became an organization that helped students with more than athletics. According to its website, ASAP provides students with financial help and guidance for attending summer programs, academic mentorship, and college advice and support.
“We send 150 to 170 kids to summer programs all over the country,” she said.
Students have gone to programs at prestigious universities, such as Stanford, Brown, Columbia and the University of Virginia.
Grossman is particularly proud of a story she heard from one of ASAP’s volunteers, who said: “One young man, when he pushed the button to apply for college, said: ‘I didn’t think I would live to graduate from high school, much less apply to college.'”
Grossman is proud of her work with Mission High School and ASAP. However, she is quick to deflect the attention away from herself. She credits the people at Mission High, the staff and volunteers of ASAP, and the students themselves for the continued growth of the program. When reflecting on the organization, she highlights individual success stories and says: “How could you not be ecstatic for them? This is really something, what these kids have done for themselves. How could you not feel good?”
To learn more about Mission ASAP, visit its website at http://missionasap.org.