Phoenix Suns Educational Programs
Suns Nite Hoops is an educational, job placement and recreational program for young, troubled adults (80 percent of the participants are referred by the Maricopa County Probation Office). At no cost to them, men ages 18-25 play in an organized basketball league two nights each week from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. year round - prime time for crime. The idea is to give them a positive alternative to drugs, gangs and violence.
With former NBA player Steve Colter as its executive director, Suns Nite Hoops offers the finest in basketball league amenities, including quality basketball gyms, referees, coaches, uniforms and other equipment. In addition to league play, other special events take place throughout the year, such as a three-point contest and 2Ball contest, which take place during halftime of selected Suns games. However, Suns Nite Hoops was created for reasons other than just basketball. The program was established with the pregame workshops, case management and job opportunities as its priority, not basketball.
As such, one hour prior to each game, participants are required to attend 45-minute educational workshops on-location. The mandatory pregame workshops are presented by NCTI, a national training and education company contracted by Suns Nite Hoops. Pregame workshops are conducted in an interactive format that includes small group discussion, role playing, brainstorming and skill development exercises. Participants meet with workshop facilitators to discuss important issues such as improving their education and learning personal development skills (i.e. conflict resolution, job interviewing and parenting skills).
Suns Nite Hoops also has two full-time case managers on staff whose primary responsibility is to assist each participant develop and achieve personal goals. For example, at the beginning of the season, a program participant might set a goal of getting a job. The case manager would help define the various jobs the participant is qualified for and then would advise and assist the participant in getting one of those jobs. Another participant's goal might be to get his G.E.D. The case manager would advise the participant on how to get his G.E.D., including taking a preparatory course and determining when and where G.E.D. tests are administered.
"Suns Nite Hoops is not a farm system for potential college or NBA players," said Suns CEO and Suns Nite Hoops Honorary Chairman Jerry Colangelo. "It is a program that leverages the popularity of basketball to encourage positive behavior among young men who need goals and structure in their lives. The basketball side of the program includes many bells and whistles, but it definitely takes a back seat to the educational workshops, scholarships and employment opportunities. We're hopeful that Nite Hoops will help set these men on a path to become productive, contributing members of society."
Book the Gorilla
Once again, the Phoenix Suns Gorilla joined Apple Computers to promote the importance of reading and creative writing to Valley students through the Book the Gorilla Contest. Book the Gorilla is a program in which children in grades K-4 as a group project write an action-packed story about the Gorilla featuring a positive message. Upon selecting the winning entry, the Gorilla brings the book with him as he visits children throughout the year. At each visit, the Gorilla puts on a show by performing the actions described in the book as it is read to the children.
Last season, The Golden Guse’s from Granada East School in Phoenix was this past seasons winning book. The book was titled “One Smart Gorilla” and was a joy to share with all the students The Gorilla visited this past season. For their efforts, the students were invited to attend a Suns game and were awarded a pizza party and a new Apple Computer. And as an added bonus, the Gorilla put on a premiere performance of the book for the students.
Considered by many as the MVP's of the community, teachers are arguably the greatest contributors to society. And for the significant impact they make on everyone's lives, the Suns took time out to honor these outstanding individuals last season through Arizona Educators.