National Institute of Youth Academics, Arts, and Athletics

N.I.Y.A.A.A. (NIYAAA) is an acronym that stands for the National Institute of Youth Academics, Arts, and Athletics. NIYAAA was initially offered as a youth program in Long Beach, California by Building Communities and Families (BCF) in 2005. We believed it was important to connect black youth to their roots so we decided to use the African word ‘NIA’ (nee-yah) which means ‘purpose’ in Swahili as the foundation to build our mission. We believe our deepest human need is to love others and serve a higher purpose. It is our contention that society cannot afford to offer superficial reasons for our youth to have good grades or be good in sports. If we are to help youth develop their fullest human potential, they must be influenced to strive for higher goals. This striving brings out the best in humans. This idea is what NIYAAA is all about.

Today, NIYAAA has become a not for profit institute (2018) and has emerged in 2020 with an innovative online and offline learning platform that centers the black student experience. To do this we have developed unique partnerships between community based organizations, public and private educational institutions, experts and specialists in academic and business fields, for profit and nonprofit corporations and municipal governments. This allows us to leverage these collective resources, talents, knowledge and power to create a learning experience centering young African American students, which prepares them to face the many challenges today’s world and in the future beyond. Our goal is to build a model that will be a shining example of how an institution can truly help develop and prepare youth to be purposeful, yet competitive in today’s ever complex and challenging world. 

We firmly believe that when every child is born, they usually have a family and community that has a purpose for their lives. When children are young and hopeful, they often have lofty aims for themselves as well. They have aspirations to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, athletes, artists, business owners, etc. Some even aspire to become the President of the United States. No child ever says ‘I want to grow up and be in prison’ or ‘I want to grow up and be unemployed’. However, although all these lofty goals are theoretically possible for any child in America, data clearly demonstrates that structural and systemic racism and white supremacy have placed historical barriers that specifically prevent the rise, success, and prosperity of black people. Through all these centuries of struggling through these barriers to establish social justice and equity, we firmly believe educational and entrepreneurial development are keys to the rise of power and prosperity for blacks today and in the future. Malcolm X eloquently stated that “education is our passport to the future”. 

For decades black youth and their parents have disproportionately focused their time and attention towards sports, music, and entertainment as the only ‘legitimate’ way to successfully ‘get out the hood’. This is often due to the marginalization of blacks in other legitimate fields due to racism and white supremacy. One of NIYAAAs primary aims is to help change this paradigm. The reality is in the next decade it is estimated that 80 percent of jobs will be STEM based. The math is simple, there are and will forever be far more available jobs in STEM fields than in athletic fields!

While we certainly acknowledge this unfortunate reality, in terms of creating a space that centers black youth the fact remains that ALL youth love to have FUN! Sports, music, art and entertainment are all fun activities! Thus, we decided to turn what appears to be a negative paradigm (over value of sports and entertainment) and use it to leverage youth into developing positive paradigms. We accomplish this by designing specialized educational (Academics) methodologies that serve the specific needs of black students and wrap them around their strong interest in the areas of sports (Athletics) and music/entertainment (Arts). In this spirit, NIYAAA utilizes three platforms (Academic, Arts, Athletics) as the primary ways to foster an environment that will help youth discover their true purpose in life.

Our goal at NIYAAA is to create a methodology that holistically develops African American students, so they complete their K-12 experience in peak condition and development in preparation for college, employment, and/or entrepreneurship opportunities. Strategic partnerships allow us to offer world class arts and athletic enrichment, and culturally relevant before and after school programming that develop well rounded youth who will be better prepared for the new millennium and all it’s challenges and opportunities. Studies clearly show that these are necessary ‘preventative’ measures that can make a profound difference in youth development.

NIYAAA 2020 and COVID-19

With the face paced technological changes in the world, we see a deterioration of old values and norms for all youth. Today’s youth are able to obtain things with such speed that it is bound to make it harder to respect and appreciate how hard it really is/was to have access to the things we do. We also see how these rapid technological changes have caused a global economic disruption of biblical proportions. The old way of doing business is being rapidly replaced by the digital age. Then, in the early spring of 2020, while this incredible technological disruption was happening, a global pandemic named COVID-19 arrived in America, and forever changed how the world works. 

If we combine all these dynamic forces into mix we see black youth in the USA face particular roadblocks and barriers that no other group of young students have to overcome. Black students are literally in an educational ‘state of emergency’ and NIYAAA’s purpose is to provide real solutions to these unique problems facing black students in America. We have developed a robust distant learning platform along with providing offline solutions serving key needs of students, parents and educational institutions who are most impacted by this pandemic. 

NIYAAA Board Members