Chicago Bulls

Brooks and Snell help celebrate McCutcheon Elementary

Bulls and BMO Harris Bank recently announced their selection of McCutcheon Elementary School as their “Adopt-a-School” partner for the 2014-15 school year

By Adam Fluck | 01.21.2015

Bulls guard Aaron Brooks has accomplished a lot on the basketball hardwood.

It’s something he did off of it, however, for which he is extremely proud.

As Brooks capped off a four-year career at the University of Oregon and prepared for the NBA, he first graduated and received a degree in political science.

“I’m definitely proud of that,” Brooks recalled. “I will always remember when I got it. It was a goal of mine and I wasn’t sure how or if it would happen. But when that moment came, it was a great feeling of accomplishment.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Brooks and teammate Tony Snell were on hand as the Bulls and BMO Harris Bank celebrated the recent selection of McCutcheon Elementary School as their “Adopt-a-School” partner for the current school year.

“Being in school is what it’s all about for these kids,” Brooks said. “Not everyone can play professional basketball. But I think it’s OK to encourage them to chase that dream or go after whatever career they choose. That’s something I learned when I was young at a Boys & Girls Club. So I try to be a different voice to them, one that is always positive. If they can work hard towards what they want. Whatever your goal might be, you should believe you can achieve it.”

During an assembly hosted by Chuck Swirsky at the Pedersen-McCormick Boys & Girls Club, students from the kindergarten through eighth grade school located in the Uptown neighborhood enjoyed performances from Benny the Bull, the Luvabulls, Incredibulls and the CB Flippers, as well as Hubert the Lion.

“It’s a blessing to be part of this event,” offered Snell. “I’m really happy to be here and see kids’ faces; they’re all smiling. We work hard and spend so much time in the gym and sometimes it’s nice to get away and support the community and see what’s going on out here. I never knew I’d be in a position to inspire kids but now that I am, it’s a blessing.”

The process of selecting the “Adopt-a-School” winner began when all Chicago Public Schools were offered the opportunity to submit a proposal. A large number of entries were received and subsequently narrowed down to the top five candidates. Members of the Bulls and BMO Harris Bank organizations then collectively chose the recipient.

McCutcheon submitted a video which helped its school stand out, highlighting its school spirit, togetherness and overall community involvement.

“We were really shocked because we know there were a lot of deserving schools,” said Jenn Farrell, the school’s principal. “For us, it’s part of a celebration. We hit level 1 earlier this year and we’re only a tenth of a point away from level 1 plus. That’s one of the highest tiers a school can achieve and it’s because of the students’ hard work, attendance and growth. So this is a culminating activity after all our hard work last year. We’re just really excited. It’s a celebration in a lot of ways and we feel so honored to be chosen.

“It’s great for the kids to be around positive role models,” added Farrell. “We’re doing a health and wellness initiative, so to be able to have professional athletes at our school makes our students feel important. It’s a cool experience for them.”

McCutcheon will receive benefits throughout the year such as tickets to games, souvenirs and autographed items, site repairs and the opportunity for a student to serve as an honorary ball person at a Bulls home game.

“To be a part of this type of program is the core of who we are and how we grow,” said Leslie Anderson, senior vice president and regional head of business banking for BMO Harris Bank. “BMO Harris couldn’t be a great institution without being part of a great community.”

While taking part in the “Adopt-a-School” program with the Bulls for a seventh consecutive season provides additional exposure in the Chicago community, it also allows BMO the ability to share some of its expertise with the students.

“We’re going to be getting some financial literacy classes, which is really exciting for our students,” explained Farrell. “We have a stock market club that gets together after school and it’s going to help that program grow. In addition, it’s also going to provide the students opportunities to learn about personal finances.”

“The hope is that we’re planting seeds because these kids are the future of Chicago,” said Anderson.

During an afternoon filled with excitement and enthusiasm from the students in attendance, motivation was also present. Tickets, for example, will be available for students to earn based on improvement, attendance and overall academic achievement.

It’s something that Brooks understands, even if he hasn’t put that political science degree to work just yet.

“It’s a competitive world and it’s always good to sharpen your tools for what’s ahead,” said Brooks. “These kids may not understand that right now but this is the foundation for what they’re doing. So you want to build a solid base and add to it. It’s important every year to keep learning.

“These kids put a smile on your face,” added Brooks. “Hopefully I brought them as much joy as they brought me.”

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