District 65 middle school students will be able to participate in volleyball, basketball and soccer because of a recent contribution from Northwestern University.

The $25,000 donation will help develop the new competitive athletic programs, which started this school year, and purchase uniforms for students who participate, according to a press release from the district.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy said the donation will give students a chance to play competitive sports and learn to balance their scholastic and athletic efforts.

Those who participate in the initiative will be required to maintain academic and behavioral standards, according to the press release.  They will be expected to attend practices, complete their classroom work and homework, and have good school attendance.

“What made it particularly attractive to us was the emphasis by District 65 on good academic performance being tied to athletic participation,” said Eugene S. Sunshine, Northwestern’s senior vice president for business and finance.

In an effort to publicize the new program to students, Northwestern athletes visited Dr. Bessie Rhodes Magnet School to show students their sports skills.

“The kids really enjoyed having the student-athletes come show off their skills and just hang out,” said organizer Jenna Termolen.

Boys soccer and girls volleyball started this fall; boys and girls basketball will be this winter; and girls soccer and boys volleyball will be this spring.

The District 65 Boosters Club will accept gifts and pledges to support the middle school athletics program.  For more information, visit the district’s website and search for middle school athletics.

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