Stay in School Event Resonates With Students

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics’ Stay in School program sponsored by Arbella Insurance has reached thousands of kids in Boston Public Middle Schools. Players have shared inspirational stories, spoke on the importance of education and truly been a positive influence on youth. Another 250 students were inspired to set goals and work hard to reach them when All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and Celtics legend Dana Barros visited Frederick Pilot Middle School Thursday morning.

Rondo and Barros’ encouraging words hit home with two particular students, seventh-grader Shakira and eight-grader Kamay. Both students were selected and recognized as Most Improved Pupils. Shakira, a bright girl with a lot of ambition, struggled when she initially entered middle school.

“I didn’t care about school when I first got here,” remembered the seventh-grader. “I just thought I would do enough to get by.”

Shakira’s outlook changed dramatically from last year. With the help of dedicated, superb teachers who wouldn’t let her give up, Shakira went from barely passing to A’s and B’s.

“My teachers pushed me to do better,” she said. “I began to work harder and realized I wanted to be a social worker. In order to reach that goal, I had to change the way I viewed education.”

With Shakira already on the right track by the time Rondo and Barros entered the auditorium, their words only solidified the fact that education opened up endless opportunities for success. In particular, Rondo’s responses to one question from the audience stuck out to her.

One student asked Rondo if he got good grades in school and if it was always that way.

“I didn’t always have good grades,” responded Rondo. “In middle school I did well. My brother is five years older than me and I was always trying to do his homework so I was usually ahead of my peers. My grades weren’t that good my freshman year of high school. Luckily I had a basketball coach who really cared about me. To prove how important school was he suspended me for 12 games that year. If I didn’t get my act together and improve my grades, I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball. From then on, I made sure that education came first. Probably the biggest honor for me was in college my sophomore year when I made the All-Academic SEC team.”

Hearing Rondo speak about education only made Shakira more determined and driven in her pursuits of being a social worker!

In addition to Shakira, eighth grader Kamay was just as affected by the assembly but in a different way. Kamay, too, struggled early on in middle school and described herself as “being all over the place.” In the last two years, she has dramatically improved and set goals of being a basketball player and/or homicide detective. To that extent, Kamay and 24 other students took part in a basketball clinic with Rondo and Barros prior to the assembly.

When Rondo walked into the gym, she could not hide her excitement! Having the opportunity to learn important basketball skills with one of her favorite basketball players was a dream come true. While at the clinic, she, along with her peers, worked on shooting and ball handling. The clinic gave Kamay her first glance at the work involved with being a great basketball player.

In addition, Kamay took the words of a good work ethic by Barros and Rondo to heart.

Barros opened with how he never gave up on his dreams. “I always dreamed of playing basketball in the NBA but being 5-10, I was constantly told that I was too short, too small. I could have let that bring me down, but I didn’t. Instead I worked harder. After breakfast in the mornings, I was outside shooting. I came in for lunch and went right back out to the court. My grandma would make me stay close to the house as night time came, but I would still stay outside and work on my ball handling. I did this every day. I loved basketball that much. I also knew that in order to play in college, I needed good grades as well so when I wasn’t playing basketball, I was studying. It paid off. I went to college for free because I never deterred from my goals.”

Rondo then elaborated on Barros’ point of persevering when he spoke about his rookie year in the NBA. “I came out of school early and thought I was the man. I went from playing a lot of minutes in Kentucky to riding the bench with the Celtics. It was a tough season. At one point, we lost 18 games in a row. Looking back, that season helped me a lot. It made me work harder to get on the court. I was constantly in the gym practicing. I surrounded myself with good people and things turned around.”

Kamay reflected on Barros and Rondo’s words following the assembly. “I want to play basketball. Before today I only played on the weekends. I thought that was enough. After hearing Dana and Rondo, I know it takes much more work than that. I’m going to start practicing every day!”

Both girls learned important life lessons during the assembly that will be with them in the future. Another person who learned a lesson was Academy Coordinator Jason Cross. During the assembly, Rondo’s love and expertise at Connect Four was brought to light. During the course of two community events in December, he was 39-0 playing the game. Cross felt he was up to challenge and thus the game was brought to the stage.

With half of the auditorium chanting for Rondo and the other for Cross, the two began to play. As it was becoming clear that Rondo would be the victor, Cross quickly emptied the checkers and claimed that there was a malfunction! Rondo’s undefeated streak continued to the delight of the students!

“I had a great time today with the kids,” said Rondo. “I hope our words resonate with them and they realize how important education is to their future.”

Shakira and Kamay were greatly affected by their words, as were many other students in the audience.

“I learned a lot at the Stay in School assembly today,” said Kamay. “I learned that school is important and to never give up, just keep going. School is all you’ve got.”