Youth learn leadership skills for on and off the court


Indiana and basketball go hand in hand. But one nonprofit organization has taken that Hoosier love for hoops to the next level this month, mixing lessons on the court with life lessons on leadership and teamwork.

S.L.E.D. is an acronym for Saving Lives Every Day. The organization, which was formed in 2021 in Lawrence Township, assists those who are underserved, marginalized or recently released from incarceration.

S.L.E.D. focuses on empowerment, mental health and wellness, functional family therapy, substance use disorder, affordable housing, life skills development and job training, as well as working with those they serve to create opportunities, reduce recidivism and eradicate inequities.

This month, the organization branched out into youth outreach, hosting “From March Madness to Competitive Greatness” at Competitive Greatness basketball training facility in Carmel.

S.L.E.D. President Charleston L. Bowles said the program is a collaboration between S.L.E.D., Major Fundamentals youth development program and Competitive Greatness to create a four-week workshop to inspire and embolden youth leaders in a sports atmosphere — specifically basketball. Participants spend their Sundays in March performing basketball drills and receiving training, followed by activities and discussions around the themes of teamwork, resilience, strategic thinking, and goal setting. The sessions helped the participants learn to be successful both on and off the court.

“At S.L.E.D., we usually work with the adult population, but we thought it would be neat to have a youth program for the month of March,” Bowles said. “We talk about instilling leadership, empowerment, and emboldening our young men through basketball. It’s been a great opportunity.”

Bowles said the program averages about 20 participants each week. Following some intense instruction on basketball fundamentals, the kids gather for a leadership workshop with different speakers each week.

Bowles said participants come from all across the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Lawrence Township, Indianapolis and Avon, and also come from varying backgrounds.

“I think what’s most beneficial first and foremost is to have community leaders, community role models and parents to show that they care,” Bowles said. “I think that really drives home the message to all the young participants here. I think also they really love to see and hear the stories from the programming that we’re sharing with them.”

Bowles said presenters at the sessions are people who have been able to turn a bad situation around and teach the youth the importance of how to make good decisions, how to think before they act, and how to take off the mask that hides their frustrations and anxiety.

“At the end of the day, I think they most appreciate seeing people who care, seeing people who want to meet them where they are, seeing leaders and role models who want to give back to their well-being and development,” Bowles said.

Besides services, S.L.E.D. also operates Corey’s House, an upcoming sober-living facility in Lawrence Township. S.L.E.D. works with the City of Lawrence, the City of Indianapolis, the Salvation Army, and the Fort Ben YMCA on programming for those members who will stay at Corey’s House.

Learn more about S.L.E.D. and its initiatives at