As some of you know, I helped out with a summer school program at the Marian Anderson Center for the past 6 weeks. We took 10 teenagers from our basketball program and had them do schoolwork for two hours in the morning and then they would do civic stuff in the afternoon (getting people registered to vote and doing a leadership program with Kenyatta Johnson, the recently elected State Rep. from South Philly.) There were also several field trips, which included a trips to Harrisburg, City Hall, Constitution Center, and even the Fox Studios. We had our share of challenges, but all in all it was a pretty big success, as all ten of the kids who started the program finished it.
I recruited the teachers from the quizzo ranks, and they were AWESOME. I want to give a special shout out to Laura (Satan’s Minions), Bret (Western Omelette), Erin, and Garbo (Sofa Kingdom), who were fantastic and who all put a tremendous amount of time and effort to this program.
We had our graduation on Monday. In English, the kids had read Friday Night Lights, and I decided, “What the heck, why not try to get Buzz Bissinger come and speak to the class?” I figured it was a long shot, but it was worth a try. So I tracked him down, and sure enough, he agreed to do it.
After the teens gave their closing speeches, Bissinger walked to the front of the crowd of about 35 people and launched into an emotional spiel about sports and education. He railed against how seriously we take sports in this culture (“They’re putting in instant replay at the Little League World Series! Little League!”) and then drove home his point: without an education, these kids don’t stand a chance. “I don’t want to crush any dreams here, but the odds of you making it to the NBA are infinitesimal. But your odds of being a doctor, or a lawyer, or an accountant are not.” He railed on about Boobie Miles, the most tragic figure in Friday Night Lights, whose career came to an end with a knee injury, and who now, 20 years later, spends time bouncing from menial job to menial job and going in and out of jail for petty crimes. “I wish Boobie was here tonight, so that he could tell you how much he wished he had taken his education seriously.”
All in all, it was an awesome speech, and when it was done, the kids all went over to Bissinger to thank him and ask for his autograph. Buzz signed the books, told the guys that he would be back to see them play when they start back this October, and headed out. Pretty sweet way for us to wrap up the summer. And keep in mind, I’m probably going to be looking for volunteers to help us out this fall.