In life, there are moments where our purpose reveals itself. Moments that confirm what we are doing is important and means something to us and for those around us. Where we fully understand how we must use our platform to help others. For ProScholars Athletics, INC., (formerly known as Team SCAN) that moment came the evening of July 13th, 2013.
I will admit, doing this work can be thankless and frustrating. There are countless hours of preparation, training, counseling, tutoring, mentoring and advocating for the young men in our program that go unnoticed by many who only are concerned with the product on the court. However, we hold true to our mission and understand that the true goal is to get each of our student athletes to graduate high school and college.
July 13th, 2013 gave our staff a sobering reminder of what our purpose is. On that summer evening, a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of killing 17 Year Old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed young black male in Florida; a young black male that could have easily been participating in any of the thousands of AAU tournaments across the country. Having to answer their questions of our inaugural class of student athletes, by far, has been the most difficult thing I personally have had to do as a coach/mentor in our program.
“How could this happen?”
“You mean he could just kill the kid and get away with it? He didn’t do anything. That could’ve been me!!”
An unfortunate truth in the world of AAU is that these issues surrounding Black Male Achievement and the challenges they face are almost never addressed even though the overwhelming majority of its participants are Black males. Conversations about rankings and shoe affiliations supersede dialogue about our young men’s academic and social development. Understanding the fundamentals of basketball are pushed aside to watch YouTube clips of the amazing athletic talents of our young men.
How do you get a Black male teenager to feel safe and valued when situations like the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown have played out on the news on a consistent basis and provide an atmosphere that allows him to succeed? It is the challenge that we face in our work here at ProScholars Athletics and we look forward to sharing our stories and successes with you.
The summer of 2013 started out like most every other summer for AAU Youth Basketball. Like many other AAU Programs, ProScholars Athletics, participated in several tournaments geared to have our student athletes compete against some of the best high school talent in the country. Thousands of high school student athletes pack gyms across the country ready to compete in AAU basketball tournaments to display their talents in front of college coaches in hopes of earning college scholarships. For many of the Black young men in our program (and not unlike many others across the country), these tournaments are seen as the lone opportunities to get out of a variety of severe social and economic circumstances and lead to a better life for themselves and their families.
In case you were not aware, statistics regarding Black Male Achievement are alarming.
42% of Black males are more likely to be educated in under-performing schools.
Black males graduation rate is 52%
26% of Black males live under the poverty level
Black male high school drop outs are 38 times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers who attend college.
With higher rates of poverty, poor educational opportunities and incarceration for our Black men, it causes a ripple effect for families and creates a vicious cycle of poverty, crime and lack of opportunities.
ProScholars Athletics’ main objective is to use team sports as platforms to not only showcase our student's athletic gifts but to expose them to greater social and academic opportunities that ensure they can succeed at the collegiate level. In doing so, we aim to break this cycle of poverty by creating cohorts of student athletes that can flourish in institutions of higher learning, graduate debt free (or close to it) and begin their adult lives in a position to create wealth for their families rather than pay off loans 10-20 years after they graduate.
- Jason Forde
Director of Development