A Major Assist

Tom & Holly Gores donate $250,000 to Rose’s Detroit charter school

Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

Tom Gores and Jalen Rose, sons of Michigan who’ve done well for themselves, are teaming up to do good for Detroit.

The Pistons owner and the former University of Michigan and NBA basketball star see a critical need for improving the lives of children who lack the support systems that allowed them to overcome their own humble beginnings, Gores near Flint and Rose in Detroit.

Rose launched the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy two years ago as a tuition-free public charter school in the heart of Detroit. This week, Gores and his wife Holly became the academy’s largest individual donor, Rose said, with a $250,000 gift that will go toward improving facilities and recruiting and retaining faculty and staff.

“What a terrific blessing to have Tom and Holly Gores’ support in a philanthropic project we started in September 2011,” Rose said as he watched the Pistons’ season-opening win over Washington courtside with the Goreses.

“One of the things that makes our school unique is we have a longer school day – our kids go until 4 p.m. – and an extended school year, 11 months. So you’re asking your teachers and administration to also do more, which puts a strain on the budget. To have the support and leadership of Tom and Holly really means a lot for what we’re trying to get accomplished and we really appreciate them being our largest individual donor.”

Holly Gores, who like her husband grew up in Michigan and attended its schools, said education in general has to be a driving force in the state’s comeback and Rose’s academy particularly appealed to her because of its founder’s passion for the city and his faith in its future.

“The only way to really improve the economy in this city is to start with the children,” said Holly Gores, who serves as a board member for the Center for Early Education in West Hollywood near the couple’s Los Angeles-area home. “My thing is you provide the children a quality education and get them to invest back even after they’ve gone on to college and come back to the community to make it stronger.

“When you talk to Jalen, his love for the community, he’s so passionate about JRLA, you can only buy into it. He’s so entrenched with making sure these kids get a decent education. It’s quite a task he’s taking on to do this. It’s amazing.”

The academy started with 100 freshmen and in each of the past two Septembers has added another freshman class of 100. As a Michigan Futures Schools initiative grant recipient, JRLA must meet or exceed target goals of 85 percent high school graduation, 85 percent college enrollment and 85 percent college graduation. The academy is dependent on fund-raising not only to acquire and maintain facilities for its expanding student population but also to provide a tuition-free education.

“So we’re extremely blessed and thankful that Tom and Holly chose us,” Rose said. “It puts us in a position where we’re closer to our fund-raising needs. It means a lot.”

Before the rousing opening-night victory over Washington, Tom Gores was asked to describe how owning an NBA franchise differed from the many other business ventures under the umbrella of Platinum Equity, the private-equity firm he launched and serves as CEO.

“It’s an emotional asset,” he said. “You have the ability to affect people in a way that if you have a steel company, you just don’t affect them the same way. You have the ability to affect kids. We recently did this thing, Holly and I, with Jalen Rose to make an impactful move in helping and educating kids. It’s probably one of the most amazing things to me in owning a sports team, how you can impact a community. It’s probably, to me, the most exciting thing.”

The gift to JRLA continues the commitment made by Gores on the day he bought the Pistons in June 2011 to use the platform of ownership to raise the spirits and the prospects of people in all corners of Michigan, especially the children who represent its future.

“Jalen’s mission is to help kids who otherwise would not have these kinds of opportunities,” Holly Gores said. “The only way they’re going to do this is through people like Jalen, who are going to come in and give back to the community and make it possible for those kids to go out and get an education they would never have dreamed of getting before.”

When he was the acknowledged leader of Michigan’s famed Fab Five two decades ago, it was Jalen Rose feeding assists to teammates and future NBA stars Chris Webber and Juwan Howard. This time, he’s on the receiving end of a major assist, courtesy of Tom and Holly Gores.