Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

Pacific Ridge School students know that sports have the ability to transcend language barriers and borders. In July, they spent three days in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, hosting basketball clinics and scrimmages with local children and youth league players. Six players from the Pacific Ridge boys’ varsity basketball team went to Rosarito to teach lessons at youth camps in the area. About 70 Kindergarten aged children lit up when coached by the older students, learning basic skills like dribbling and shooting.

The group is working with Mexico-based nonprofit Responsibility, which provides schooling and summer programs for children living near the Tijuana municipal dumps. The children are learning English so the basketball lessons give them a valuable opportunity to practice their language skills. The Pacific Ridge players served as coaches and coordinators, spending each morning teaching participants basketball basics and hosting fun games like relay races.

The Pacific Ridge team spent its afternoons in spirited competition playing against local youth basketball clubs. Basketball Coach Chris Burman called the games highly competitive. “There have been some really close games. It’s great for our players to spend time together and try something that’s totally unique,” Burman tells Giving Back Magazine.

In addition to giving the team a chance to practice basketball over the summer, the trip gives students the opportunity to connect with communities across the border. Coach Burman, who is also a Spanish teacher at Pacific Ridge, was able to connect with youth basketball leaders in the community thanks to his ties to the area. Many teachers at Pacific Ridge utilize connections all over the world to help students expand their global outlook each year.

The youth basketball camp isn’t the first time the Pacific Ridge School’s Firebirds have jumped into team service work. Each year, the basketball team volunteers at Carlsbad’s La Posada de Guadalupe homeless shelter. In the winter, they provide a meal and partner with other Pacific Ridge School service learning groups to put on a performance. This is the second year the team hosted basketball clinics in Mexico.

Pacific Ridge students are exposed to a robust service learning program in middle school and actively engage in the practice of service learning all the way through grade 12. The school curriculum builds time right into the weekly schedule for students to rotate through volunteer projects at a variety of community partners, including Head Start, ActivCare assisted living and San Diego County Animal Services. Upper school students can choose to join one of the more than 20 established service learning groups, or choose to start their own. It is no surprise that combining their passion for basketball with service comes naturally to the Pacific Ridge players.