Jamir Ellerby, Jay Peña and Brian Hall stand under the rimless basketball hoops in Syracuse’s Kelley Brothers Memorial Park.
Jimere Ellerby, Jay Peña and Brian Hall stand under the rimless basketball hoops in Syracuse’s Kelley Brothers Memorial Park.
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hile basketball may be the draw for dozens of underprivileged youth, Pass Da R.O.C.K. is really hoping what they’re scoring is a better sense of empowerment and more respect for themselves and their community.

Pass Da R.O.C.K. started in Syracuse in 2001 inspired the same-named Los Angeles program that wanted to create a positive environment for inner-city youth. The R.O.C.K. in the group’s name stands for Relationships, Opportunities, Character, and Kindness.

Pass Da Rock Holds Final Weekly Empowerment Meeting
Pass Da Rock Holds Final Weekly Empowerment Meeting
Jimere Ellerby and Brian Hall (left) continue working on drywalling while Steyvon Jones and Jaden Peña rest (right).
Pass Da Rock Holds Final Weekly Empowerment Meeting
At the start of the pandemic, the city of Syracuse removed all of the rims from public basketball hoops and restricted hours of local green spaces.

Now booming two decades later, the organization has a partnership with the Syracuse City School District and a constant presence in schools across the city.

While COVID-19 protocols did not allow for the hundred-person gatherings founder Nate Peña was accustomed to this past year, the group staged small empowerment workshops to teach members valuable life skills such as cooking and home improvement.

On the last night of Pass Da R.O.C.K.’s youth empowerment program, members were taught basic plumbing, as well as how to season and cook steaks. They also built on previously learned skills by baking muffins and cooking Brussels sprouts.

Along with the training, the workshops proved to be a reprieve from the chaos the health pandemic has caused while offering a chance for teens to bond and return to a sense of normalcy for a few hours each week.

Steyvon Jones horses around by pointing a flashlight in Jamir Ellerby’s eyes as the pair work on fixing a sink.
Until later, guys.
Avatar for TJ Shaw

is a photojournalism major and a contributor for The NewsHouse.