Dec. 13, 2013
WASHINGTON - Georgetown University men's basketball players Mikael Hopkins (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) and Jabril Trawick (Philadelphia, Pa./Abington Friends) remembered being in the same seats of the middle school students they were speaking to one morning recently.
They remembered the feeling that kids get sometimes, when they feel everyone may be picking on them or the excitement when they had to go to the auditorium to hear someone speak. Except this time, Hopkins and Trawick - along with Georgetown Head Men's Basketball Coach John Thompson III and some teammates - were the ones speaking to the kids.
The Hoyas took some time recently to visit with students at Hart Middle School in Southeast D.C. as part of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) "Stay in to Win" program, which targets middle school and high school students, focusing on student success and dropout prevention.
Hopkins and Trawick were just two members of the team who spoke to the near 300 students at Hart Middle School, joined by Thompson, as well as seniors Nate Lubick (Southborough, Mass./St. Marks) and Markel Starks (Accokeek, Md./Georgetown Prep), junior Tyler Adams (Brandon, Miss./Brandon) and sophomore D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Indianapolis, Ind./Oak Hill).
Thompson introduced each of the players, who spoke to the students about staying focused on their school work and how success in education can help to lead to success in life. "As we said to the kids, the student body, they are just like us," Thompson said. "A lot of the same struggles that they're going through in middle school, our guys are going through at the collegiate level and went through when they were in middle school. Good, bad, right or wrong, these kids look up to our team."
For some of the Hoyas, it was a trip down memory lane as they could recall sitting in those seats when they were that age. "The whole time I was up on the stage, I was thinking how that used to be me," Trawick said. "We'd have assembly and certain speakers or different people would come speak to us and I was the same little boy in the crowd. Nobody knew who I was, just like the dudes on the stage didn't know who I was."
For others, like Hopkins and Starks, who both grew up in the Washington Metropolitan area, it was also a chance to give back to kids who could follow in their footsteps. "It's always interesting to go back to your neighborhood and see kids who are going through the same schools you did," Hopkins said. "I remember being in eighth grade and nobody's listening to the teachers, nobody wants to go to class and everyone thinks the teacher is picking on them. It's just repetition. I remember being that kid sitting there maybe not paying attention all the time but listening to the information the speakers are giving."
The leadership at the school was excited for opportunity to have the team come to meet with the students, to interact and to have them provide some words for them. "Any time that someone closer to their age who has walked in their shoes can articulate the importance of going to school, following the rules, doing things when sometimes you don't' want to do them and there is a goal on the other side of that, it always helps," Billy Kearney, the principal at Hart Middle School, said. "Kids listen to that more than they'll listen to me sometimes or other teachers who they're just saying, `Your job is to teach.' The real live players, to be able to relate to them, especially the ones from around here, that really resonates with them.
"I can't tell you in enough complimentary words what it means to have Georgetown for a lot of reasons," Al Foderaro, Executive Director & Found, Life Decisions, said. "First, it is one of the premier colleges in the country and Coach Thompson is one of the premier and most-highly respected coaches in the country. His own philosophy and personal values supports education. And D.C. is one of the highest cities in the country for dropout rates and for Coach Thompson to step forward and do this and in this location is phenomenal."
"It was a good feeling (to visit)," Trawick said. "They showed us a lot of love and made us feel special. Giving advice and taking time to talk to kid who look up to you is something you're supposed to do because they show a lot of love to you and they look up to you."