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Final Four Kicks Off Slant Youth Education Program
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As children stocked a food pantry, sorted donated clothing and shelved library books at Reconciliation Outreach in East Dallas, the NCAA's North Texas Local Organizing Committee officially kicked off SLANT (Service Learning Adventures in North Texas), the youth education program chosen as the legacy project for the NCAA Men's Final Four® championship game. Registration for the free SLANT program, which gives North Texas elementary and middle-school children a chance to become champions of community service, is now open at myslant.org. The deadline to complete service projects and submit project information online – which qualifies children to attend several special NCAA Final Four activities – is March 21, 2014.

"One of the most important lessons we can teach children is to give back, and SLANT does that and much more," said Bob Bowlsby, Big 12 Commissioner and a member of the North Texas Local Organizing Committee. "This is a terrific program that gives kids the tools to examine their surroundings, identify problems and find creative ways to solve them."

SLANT is a student-led program designed to inspire youth to take up the challenge of improving their neighborhoods and communities in unique and creative ways. North Texas-based Big Thought, creator of the hugely successful SLANT 45 curriculum and one of the nation's leading nonprofit organizations focused on innovating public education, has been tapped once again to orchestrate and operate the program. The goal is to recruit 7,000 children to the program.

"The NCAA is thrilled to be a part of this nationally recognized program, which gives kids a chance to be part of the NCAA Men's Final Four," said Bowlsby. "And while we will be celebrating champions on the basketball court, we'll also be cheering on these young hometown champions for the good work they'll be doing."

This year students can choose from four categories of projects – health and wellness, learning and literacy, hunger and homelessness, and environmental impact. Participating teams will receive free student journals, an adult leader's guide and SLANT T-shirts for student participants. Teams that complete their service-learning projects will receive two vouchers per student participant for free tickets to Bracket Town fan fest, and admission to the Reese's College All-Star Game & SLANT Celebration at the AT&T Stadium on Friday, April 4, 2014.

Teams can be formed in a variety of ways – from neighborhoods and sports teams, to youth and religious organizations, to classrooms and after-school programs.

Also, organizations and businesses are encouraged to become SLANT partners by offering the program to their students or program participants, recruiting adult volunteers, helping spread the word or partnering in other creative ways. SLANT partners include school districts, private schools, nonprofit organizations, after-school providers, youth and cultural organizations, museums, religious organizations, youth sports leagues, universities, businesses and more.

"We're absolutely thrilled that SLANT is making a comeback for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship," said Gigi Antoni, president and CEO of Big Thought. "It's a win-win for everyone because our region benefits from the efforts of these extraordinary kids. But our children also win, too, because they develop 21st-century skills like problem-solving, collaboration, curiosity and resilience."

HOW SLANT WORKS
To participate, students work in a team under the supervision of an adult "coach" (at least 18 years old). Coaches must register their participant(s) and team at myslant.org between now (Dec. 4) and March 1, 2014. The size of the team is left to the decision of the coach. There is no minimum or maximum number of youth who can be involved on any one project. Coaches can be teachers, parents, volunteers, college students, etc.; and projects may be done in the classroom, during an after-school program, or with a sports team, youth group or at home. All program materials will be sent to the team coach at the address provided during registration.

Examples of service-learning projects
While kids are encouraged to use their imagination, here are examples of possible projects. In health and wellness, children can start an exercise club for kids in their community or host an activity day for nursing-home residents. In the education and literacy category, kids can plan a fair to showcase and teach others about different cultures and tutor or read to younger children. Hunger and homelessness projects might include making care packages for children/teens living in foster care or who are homeless, creating a canned food drive to help those who are in need, or donating items to homeless shelters. In the environmental impact category, children can clean up a park or school grounds or create a campaign to educate and encourage the use of reusable grocery bags instead of plastic ones.

SLANT project timeline
Registration runs Dec. 4, 2013, through March 1, 2014. The deadline to finish projects and submit completion information at myslant.org Is March 21, 2014 (teams who complete this step will be invited to the culminating event on April 4). On April 4, the Reese's College All-Star Game & SLANT Celebration will be held at AT&T Stadium the weekend of the 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four®. On April 4-7, Bracket Town fan fest will be held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Learn more
For more information, go to myslant.org, send an email to info@myslant.org or call the SLANT hotline at 469-621-8989. For more information on the 2014 Men's Final Four and SLANT, please visit www.NCAA.com/FinalFour.

Big Thought
For more than 25 years, Big Thought has worked to innovate public education in the Dallas area by providing programs that help kids imagine possibilities, excel academically and contribute to their community. Driven by its mission to make imagination a part of everyday learning, Big Thought develops programs that give more students access to creative, hands-on learning, and operates out-of-school-time programs that directly address academic achievement and youth development. Through its partnerships, Big Thought serves more than 100,000 Dallas children each year, provides professional development to thousands of adult educators and artists who support youth learning, and delivers more than one million hours of programming and individual creative instruction. A model to cities across America, Big Thought has achieved national recognition, including the Americans for the Arts "2009 Arts in Education Award" and the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities "Coming Up Taller Award" in 2004. In 2011, the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities selected Big Thought President/CEO Gigi Antoni as a "Champion of Change," serving on a White House panel highlighting best practices in arts education. Most recently, Big Thought was awarded the 2013 Texas Medal of Arts Award in Arts Education by the Texas Cultural Trust. Learn more at bigthought.org.
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