At a recent event to benefit his charter school, The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, former NBA player, Jalen Rose made it clear that, to him education is no mere side project, it’s a passion.
Jalen is the product of public school, but his daughters attend private school, so he knows the benefits and drawbacks of both, and with his charter school (first graduating class will be in 2015) Jalen hopes to create opportunities for kids who otherwise might not have had the means to experience them.
The following is Jalen’s speech. If you still don’t believe that he’s serious about education, you will after reading this…
“My students go to school until 4:30 and we go for 11 months. But ‘why’ is really the question. Because we want to teach our young men and young women that they can compete in a global economy. Right? Because we watch the news and wonder why we owe China billions of dollars and then realize their students go to school 7 days a week. And they go 235 days a year. The regular public schools in my hometown Detroit they go 180 days a year. Our students go 215 days. Our students are at school this week, because if they’re not in school what are they doing? Gone are the days, in my opinion, where our young men and young women can succeed by getting out of school in June and not going back until September.
Kids nowadays can’t remember what they just tweeted 5 minutes ago, how are they supposed to remember a math lesson, an English lesson, a science lesson? (How are they supposed to remember) any type of enrichment that they got in June and apply it in September? That doesn’t add up. So that’s what makes our work important at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Also, we teach our young men and young women how to succeed in life with life skills: Decision making, problem solving, the realities of sex, drugs, violence, gangs. All of the things that they’re exposed to when they leave school.
What is the difference between a quality public school – in a lot of cases – in an urban area versus a suburban area? Just a zip code. I went to a public school, My lovely daughters go to a private school. The hybrid for me is a charter school, a public charter, tuition-free. What are some of the issues we deal with? All of the issues that every public school across the country deals with, but I’ll tell you this: 98% of my students come to school everyday. 98%, and they’re committed to learning, they’re committed to shattering a lot of glass ceilings. Trust me, I’ve been to a lot of legislative meetings, and they talk to me ad nauseam. “Jalen, you’re actually gonna start a school with a longer school day, with a longer school year? The parents are gonna go for that? The students are gonna go for that?” Yes! Because they want to do something special.
Gone are the days where you can get a high school diploma and it’s going to take you everywhere you need to go. That was the 80’s in Detroit when I grew up. Where you could drop out of high school, go work at the plant, if you were willing to work 40 hours a week, before you knew it you were making as much money, if not more money than your parents. Those days are over. Nowadays you basically need a diploma from college to work at McDonalds. The ante has lifted, and if we don’t continue to grow with it, we get left behind.
It’s very important the work we’re doing to try to educate young men and young women, to show them that they can be success stories. I’m committed. I’ve influenced 40 + kids already to go to college. I have a scholarship endowment at the University of Michigan, so I’m committed to my community. Our challenge is that same commitment in your community.
You ever heard of the term “caffienasium?” That’s what we have at our school. A “caffienasium” is a gym and a lunchroom. Lisa Leslie can go in their and make a full-court shot, but we need that space. What is the difference between successful private schools versus average, or below average public schools? One thing: Money. I’m from Detroit, I went to college at (University of) Michigan. The difference between the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan is donors.
We’re here to get you guys to understand that this movement is very serious, and Im not going to get political but I know we’ve all been watching CNN, Headline News here lately, and I know sometimes I toe the line to say what I should say or say what I shouldn’t say, but most importantly I say what I want to say, so I’m going to say this: There’s a term that I like to use that basically designates, there are a lot of people that appreciate you, support you, that love you, that talk about your movement that pay lip service to it. I call that bringing flowers to your funeral. Like if something happens, “aw man, I’m gonna go pay my respects.” and rightfully so, they’re bringing flowers to your funeral. But who’s gonna bring you soup when you’re sick? Flowers to your funeral versus soup when you’re sick. if something tragically happened to me tonight, unfortunately I have people all across the globe that would want to write checks for our school, want to give back to the cause. Big checks I’m sure, but the problem is I won’t be here to enjoy it, but because I helped lay the foundation for something special for our young men and young women at our school.
Now how does that relate to the circumstance that’s been in the news lately? There are a lot of people that have seen what happened with the unfortunate, tragic, horrific murder of Trayvon Martin, and I don’t care what your political views are, I don’t really even care what you think about the verdict. I personally could not stand the verdict. It made me sick to my stomach, so much so that I have been watching the news like this (gestures) the last 48 hours. The juror, I think 37, I can’t front, I’ve watched that interview 50 times but in life a lot of times it’s not what happens to you it’s what you do about it. What are you going to do about it? How are you going to help influence change? Now there are a lot of people, and I’m happy to know that after that happened, there are a lot of people that rededicated themselves to want to give back to their community, to want to help their family, to be down for what we call “the cause.”
See for me this is not a fad. I’m already doing this, I’ve been doing this, and we’re going to keep doing it.
For more information, or to purchase a t-shirt (all proceeds go toward the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy) visit www.jrladetroit.com.