With high-profile status, Rose has power to positively influence boys of color
I had the opportunity this week to attend the dinner for the Jalen Rose Golf Outing supporting the new Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The academy, which offers longer days and an extended school year to students in a tuition-free charter environment, is one of four new schools opened so far through Michigan Future School’s initiative to improve education opportunities for children in Detroit. That initiative is funded by The Skillman Foundation along with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the McGregor Fund.
This event raises funds to support the expansion of Jalen’s school. Some expansion goals Jalen Rose mentioned coming in the near future include a health clinic and a credit union where students can learn financial literacy.
Listening to Jalen speak with such passion about his personal commitment to the children of Detroit was amazing. He is serious about wanting to level the educational playing field for all children. As he said, "Differences in education should never be determined by your zip code." The children of Detroit, as well as children in inner cities across our country, deserve better.
I absolutely love to hear high-profile individuals, particularly current or former professional athletes, speak about the importance of educating disadvantaged youth, as well as the importance of people of influence having a stake in these children’s learning outcomes. Athletes in particular have an opportunity to influence the decisions of boys of color, because those boys hold them in such high esteem.
How many times have I talked with a group of young people and asked them what they want to be when they grow up? So many times, a majority of the black boys will answer, “I want to be a basketball player or a football player.”
Many have never even considered other career paths. Well, being a professional athlete is a nice goal, but as Jalen said, there are a million other things children can aspire to be, and it’s time we provide them with the tools to dream bigger. They should have access to an education and school that prepares them for a wide array of career paths, and too often, that isn’t the case for inner-city youth.
This is a subject near and dear to my heart; I have worked with sports figures for many years assisting them with their philanthropic efforts. Many realize the impact they can have on a child who idolizes them, and Jalen’s school is a tangible result of just how important their efforts can be in the lives of inner-city children.
I moved to Detroit last week to work with The Skillman Foundation for the next nine months as part of my graduate degree fellowship program, the National Urban Fellows. If I could describe my initial feeling of the city and the work that the Foundation and its partners are doing to bring about change here, it would be “grateful.” I am grateful that I was chosen by this dynamic organization to learn how to “Lead the change I want to see in the world,” as a wise person once said.
Being in the room for this wonderful event, hearing Jalen speak with such passion and conviction, reiterated for me that the time is now to give our children better educational opportunities.
To read more about JRLA, check out the recent series from the Detroit Free Press here. Also, see the Foundation’s video about the first year at the school here.
-- Jessica Martin is a National Urbans Fellow and the Foundation's Special Assistant, Communications.
9/14/2012 at 10:51 am