Celtics' Inspiring Words Motivate Group of Students

BOSTON – People say it only takes one moment, one event and one person to change someone’s life. For example, African Americans’ lives were forever changed when Martin Luther King, Jr., read his powerful “I have a dream” speech. Women’s rights came to the forefront thanks to the Seneca Falls convention in 1848.

With that thought in mind, Nate Robinson and Von Wafer hoped to impact the lives of 40 students at McKinley South End Academy for the Stay in School assembly sponsored by Kia Motors.

Arriving at the school, the duo immediately went to the gym to meet selected students for a basketball clinic.

“Good morning everyone,” said Robinson. “Von and I are happy to be here today. Before we head into the assembly we’re going to work on some basketball fundamentals. I love this sport. When I was your age I knew I wanted to be a basketball player. I set my goals high and achieved them. You all can do the same. Set goals and work hard every day and you will be successful.”

The students initially worked on chest and bounce passes before moving on to shooting technique.

“The four things you need to know about shooting are balance, eyes on the basket, elbow up and follow through,” informed Robinson. “Follow through is key.”

The students were then broken up into two teams for a shooting contest. Robinson captained one team while Wafer captained the other. The first team to hit 10 shots was the winner. It was evident that both teams wanted to win. As a student made the initial basket, the other team member would all yell “one” and so on until the team has made 10 shots.

After two games, the teams were split. The kids decided they wanted to see a show so they begged Robinson and Wafer to break the tie by shooting against each other! Robinson barely squeaked by Wafer to win the competition!

As Robinson was smiling broadly, the group made their way to the auditorium to join their classmates for the assembly.

Robinson and Wafer, along with Community Relations Director Matt Meyersohn, spent time speaking candidly with the students.

Meyersohn began by challenging the group to never quit. “I had a dream to play in the NBA just like Nate and Von. I was always told that I wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t tall enough. I could have let the criticisms get me down, but I didn’t. I kept playing and I didn’t give up. I may not have reached my ultimate goal of playing in the NBA, but I modified my goal and now I work for a basketball team. If you take one thing from what I said today, please continue to work hard. It’s easy to give up and quit but I challenge you to be tough enough not to quit.”

Robinson then spoke to the middle school students. “I’m the oldest of nine kids. Growing up I had to be the one who set the example. I remember being embarrassed in high school because my grades weren’t good. I was at one of the most important football games of my career at that time but my dad had found out that day that I wasn’t doing well in school. He came to the game and made me walk off the field. If my grades didn’t improve, I wasn’t allowed to play football. I was so embarrassed. Not only had I let my family down, but I had let my team down that night. From that day on, I put my school work first and it has paid off. Remember that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Wafer ended with an inspiring, motivational speech. “When I look around I see a lot of myself in you all. I was trying to search for a purpose in life and I found that in basketball. I want all of you to find your craft and work hard at it. I want you to know that someone loves you and that your teachers are only trying to help. You’re going to face adversity in life. People are going to tell you negative things and try to bring you down but you can’t listen. Please don’t give up. We care about you all.”

The message from the assembly was especially important for this second-chance school and it was pretty clear that Robinson, Wafer and Meyersohn’s words resonated in the auditorium. The students were listening so intently that you could hear a pin drop in the room. As the assembly came to a close, students and teachers came up to thank the players for their moving words. One teacher remarked that the assembly definitely left an imprint with the students.

Another teacher said, “This was the most attentive I’ve ever seen this group.”

“This is what it’s all about,” said Robinson. “These students are our next generation. I want them to know that they can reach any dream they set their mind to.”