Chicago Bulls

Bulls recognize local students as part of Sprite MVP program

Sprite MVP program honors 24 African American high schoolers for academic achievements and a commitment to their community

By Adam Fluck | 02.24.2015

The Chicago Bulls and Sprite hosted honorees from the eighth annual Sprite MVP program on Monday night at the United Center.

Held during Black History Month, twenty-four African American students from local high schools were selected based on their commitment to succeeding in school and improving their community.

As part of the Bulls’ efforts to actively improve and raise awareness around youth education, the team annually partners with Sprite on the MVP program to celebrate students who advance their academic goals, achieve a 2.5 minimum grade point average and complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service throughout the year. This year’s recipients boast a current average GPA of 3.7, and they completed nearly 2,200 hours of community service in 2014.

“It’s a wonderful way for us to connect locally with the community,” said Rebecca Strope, marketing activation manager for Coca-Cola of the program, which is open to students in grades 10-12 within the Chicago area. “The Bulls do a fantastic job of giving all these winners a once in a lifetime experience with being able to go on the court pregame.

“It’s an impressive program regardless, but the Bulls’ involvement provides us with a great way to reach the community and have the team behind it with direct outreach to the schools,” added Strope, who has been involved for five of the program’s eight years. “They can provide a lot of avenues we may not otherwise be able to access. So it’s really helpful in reaching those audiences.”

Among the students was Daniel Gborie, who was named the grand prize winner.

“In life, you should always have faith and courage but also want to improve your community,” said Gborie, who attends ACE Technical Charter School on Chicago’s South Side. “So I volunteer every single week and try to have a big impact on my community. I want to encourage and motivate young kids to become a better person, just like I did. But that takes time. You start from the bottom and come up. So you have to start at a young age as you begin to pursue your life. You can’t just sit there and let everything happen. You need a leader to motivate you and that’s what I’m trying to be.”

Strope said Gborie’s essay set him apart from his peers and earned him the extra recognition.

“I put a lot of hard work into that essay,” said Gborie, who relied on personal experiences for inspiration. “I barely slept and stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning writing and editing it. I got a lot of great help from my counselors. The main theme was that great leadership has a great impact in our community. There are a lot of shootings and killings going on in Chicago. We need leadership to stand up and improve this city. We need to help the police and stop the violence. But it’s more than just talking; you have to put effort into it.”

Gborie and the other students each received two tickets to Monday’s game, a Sprite MVP track jacket and a gift bag filled with Bulls items. Afterwards, E’Twaun Moore and Tony Snell, who scored a game-high 20 points in the 87-71 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, met with the group to take photos and sign autographs.

Additionally, winners attended a road watch party at the Advocate Center as the Bulls visited the Detroit Pistons on Friday. They met representatives from Sprite and the Bulls and received a behind the scenes tour of the facility.

“I can say that it has been the best time of my life,” exuded Gborie. “This is my first time coming to a Bulls game ever since I came to Chicago in 2006. It means a lot to me and I’ve been really impressed. I’ve had fun and I’ve been able to meet new students and mentors who have motivated me. I’ve made some good connections.

“It’s really exciting,” he added. “You can see how much I’m smiling. When I was working on my essay, I was thinking I really wanted to win. That was my main goal, to be able to step into this stadium. I’m from Africa and you can’t see anything there like this place. No matter what race you are or no matter how tall or short you are, whoever you are, you can have a big impact on the community. Anything is possible once you put hard work into it.”

As for gauging the program’s success, first and foremost, it’s the number of entries, explained Strope. But the impact on young lives has been immeasurable.

“This year we had well over a hundred entries, which was fantastic. It gets bigger and bigger every single year,” said Strope. “Without the support of the Bulls, it really wouldn’t be the program that we love and want. So we’re honored to be partnered with an organization like the Bulls that truly cares about our business objectives and of course the children involved.”