Urban polo players compete for national title

    Young polo players from Philadelphia are competing for the national interscholastic polo championship this week. They play for the first and only all African-American polo team in the country. WHYY’s Shai Ben-Yaacov reports the West Philadelphia-based “Work to Ride” program has been steadily improving – and improving life for its members.

    Young polo players from Philadelphia are competing for the national interscholastic polo championship this week.  They play for the first and only all African-American polo team in the country.  The West Philadelphia-based “Work to Ride” program has been steadily improving – and improving life for its members.

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    Work to Ride started in 1994 as a way to get disadvantaged, African American youths involved in a sport that could take them out of their neighborhoods.  It’s done just that for Kareem Rosser, who went to Philadelphia public schools until he moved to Valley Forge Military Academy four years ago.  Kareem says it was polo that brought him to Valley Forge after he began competing against suburban schools. He says, “As a student, I was sort of lazy, and I didn’t try very hard, so it gave me an opportunity to leave the city and to come into the suburbs, and in a different classroom environment.  Instead of 30 kids, there’s now nine or eight kids, and even some classes five kids.”

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    The early rounds of the tournament took place at Cornell University.  That’s where Kareem, who is now a junior, says he sees himself after high school.  He and his teammates grew up in West Philadelphia within walking distance of Work to Ride’s base in Fairmount Park.  Sophomore Dre Taylor, stumbled upon it.  Taylor says he was intrigued by polo, which he’d never seen before, “My uncle took me out there, and I asked him, how can I do that?  So he told me how I could do it.  So I went back to the horse stable.  We went on the same day.  I was in the program about a month.  Took me a month.  It got me off the streets.  I don’t get in as much trouble as I used to.”

    Taylor now attends the High School of the Future charter school and plans to go to college.

    The program has produced several #1 National All Stars, including Kareem Rosser and his older brother Jabarr.  The team travelled to the national interscholastic championship in 2005.  Kareem hopes the team will gain more recognition as a national contender in polo, and inspire others from his neighborhood, “It’s a huge thing.  You know, show the polo world and everyone else who hears about us that it’s possible to do these things.”

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