This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.
For over a decade, a Maryland native has helped youths chase their dreams. Heading into this summer, she’s started a new round of summer programs to help them take their futures into their own hands.
Sonia Chase is the president and CEO of the Chase Your Dreams Incorporated, a for profit business, and Chase Your Dreams Academy, a nonprofit organization, which is based in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
“What we really want to teach [the youth] and talk to them about is life lessons such as teamwork, sportsmanship, work ethic, communication,” Chase told WTOP.
Chase was one of the pioneers of the WNBA and said through the basketball programs that began in the Prince George’s County’s Parks and Recreation Department in 2009, she’s been able to teach lessons that are “bigger than basketball.”
The Chase Your Dreams program quickly became popular because she ran her basketball programs like a college program, she said. That’s the only way she knew how to teach — providing children with drills and skills.
When she noticed the camp wasn’t reaching low-income and at-risk children who didn’t have the money to attend, Chase said she started the nonprofit Chase Your Dreams Academy.
“We’re not just raising student-athletes; we’re raising people,” she said.
‘Real big sisterhood’
Chase said that she credits her father with putting a basketball in her hands at the age of five.
She began playing in an all-boys’ league in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Chase attended the McDonogh School in Baltimore County where she was a two-time team captain, then received a four year athletic scholarship to play at the University of Maryland where she graduated in 1998 and was drafted into the WNBA that same year.
Chase described those years in the young WNBA playing for the Charlotte Sting, a league that began its inaugural season just one year before she was drafted saying, “It was amazing. It was challenging. It was terrific in so many ways in terms of the NBA players and their support.”
Chase also said it was frightening because there were talks of the WNBA folding, some said it wasn’t going to last. She called it a “real big sisterhood.”
During the off seasons, she played in 10 countries including Greece, Turkey and China in the Federation International Basketball Association. In all, Chase said she had a 10 year professional career in basketball.
What about today’s WNBA?
“I think Cathy Engelbert is doing a phenomenal job,” Chase said.
She points to commissioner Engelbert’s extensive business background.
“It’s been a breath of fresh air [to have] a leader that’s going to bring exposure to the WNBA,” she said.
Twenty five years after being drafted, Chase is utilizing her skills to teach students what she calls the four Ds: desire, dedication, determination and discipline.
You can learn about the sports camp programs that run from July 17 to Aug. 18 on its website.