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A Whole New Ball Game

Crossover Mission uses basketball to jump-start change in the lives of at-risk youth

Antoine Jennings and Cathy De Schouwer founded Crossover Mission, a nonprofit that supports and redirects at-risk youth through after-school programs aimed at building habits of character that lead to academic success.

Antoine Jennings and Cathy De Schouwer founded Crossover Mission, a nonprofit that supports and redirects at-risk youth through after-school programs aimed at building habits of character that lead to academic success.

It’s been six years since Cathy De Schouwer called basketball coach Antoine Jennings and asked if they could meet. Cathy’s son Louis, then 9 years old, loved basketball and wanted a coach who would teach him how to play better. Antoine’s son Antoine Jr. known as A.J., at the same age and with the same passion for the sport, was learning from the best — his father.

A few days later, there they were, two bright-eyed boys — one white, one black — and their respective parents at a park in the heart of Gifford, where a group of black children were playing basketball on an outdoor court. While her son felt an immediate connection, Cathy had some serious concerns.

“It was hard for me to believe that Mr. Jennings would agree to train my son. His world rarely intersected with white people on a social level, and there were almost no black people in my life. Actually, looking back, the fact that I even considered calling Antoine in the first place was the first crossover,” says Cathy, by way of explaining how Crossover Mission, a nonprofit that reaches across cultures to support and redirect at-risk and under-resourced youth through after-school programs, using sports as a means to attract, motivate and monitor achievement, got its start.

When Louis began training alongside A.J., with Antoine coaching, he was confronted with being the only white player on the court. Yet, knowing it was what her son wanted, Cathy went along to every practice, not sure if she would fit in. Thanks to Antoine’s wife, Fallon, and her daughter Avonti reaching out, Cathy found a welcoming community.