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MEMPHIS, Tenn.– The state of Tennessee invested half a million dollars into local youth sports and mentorship for the first time ever.

Representative Antonio Parkinson presented the $500,000 check to leaders of the School Seed Foundation, a local nonprofit that supports teachers and students in the Memphis area, on Saturday at the Ed Rice Community Center.

Parkinson said the money will pay for team fees and equipment along with academic and mentorship support. For many children, sports are an outlet, not only to learn athletic and social skills, but also to help them deal with challenges in life. Parkinson added that the mentorship helped him during youth sports.

“It kept me out of things, out of those traps that I could’ve fallen into. It doesn’t mean that the traps went away, but that mentorship, and their voices sitting in my head of what coaches are saying, and other people surrounding us, helped me to make good decisions,” Parkinson said.

If you are establishing a team or already have an existing team or program for children 18 and under, you can apply for funding on the School Seed Foundation’s website.