Mooseheart, Dec 4th, Mooseheart has a 100-year history of providing a safe, nurturing and caring environment and education to children in need. Currently, over 200 children reside and are educated on Mooseheart’s campus, having been admitted from locations across the United States and Canada, as well as students who have emigrated from Mexico, Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
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In 2011, four young men from South Sudan – Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou, Hakim Nyang and Wal Khat – were recommended by one of 1,700 referral agencies that have worked with Mooseheart, and were admitted in May of that year. They came from war-torn South Sudan and we accepted these students because they needed a nurturing home and education.
All of our students are encouraged to participate in activities outside of school, with 83 percent of our student body involved in interscholastic athletics. The four students from South Sudan expressed an interest in participating on the athletic teams at Mooseheart including both basketball and cross-country. In 2011, we went through the process of communicating with the IHSA in connection with these young men competing for Mooseheart teams. The IHSA deliberated and notified Mooseheart of the 365-day transfer sit-out rule to comply with IHSA regulations. After this time, the IHSA released all four young men as eligible to play interscholastic sports during the 2012-13 school year.
Subsequently, on November 29th, 2012, we were notified by IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman that the young men were permanently ineligible to participate in any interscholastic sports at Mooseheart due to the IHSA’s perception that these young men were “recruited” to compete in athletics at Mooseheart.
Mooseheart has always abided by the IHSA rules and regulations, and has never been accused of violating IHSA policies. We have followed the 365-day transfer sit-out rule to comply with the IHSA regulations. We do not understand why the status of their eligibility is in question. For this reason, Mooseheart has filed a temporary restraining order on December 4, 2012 in order to let the young men compete prior to a full IHSA Board hearing scheduled for December 10th.
Our main priority, as it is with all children at Mooseheart, continues to be providing them with a home and accredited education. The young men all desire an education and hope to return to South Sudan to give back to their country. Their residency at Mooseheart is a perfect fit with Mooseheart's Motto - "Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve." Despite this priority, all of our students deserve an opportunity to have a well-rounded experience at Mooseheart, and interscholastic sports are part of that experience. We will continue to support these four students, and any others who we feel have been unjustly punished, by the IHSA or other organizations which may impact their lives.
Mooseheart is a melting pot - we accept children in need from around the world, from infancy through high school, and would welcome any additional referrals to help children in need, no matter what their extracurricular activities.