Rondo Encourages Students at Bowling Event

BOSTON – Eager to test the limits of how much of a positive impact a basketball team can have on the outcomes of struggling students, the Boston Celtics and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation unveiled the Step Your Game Up challenge in January of this season.

With a relatively simple concept, struggling students had the opportunity to sign a contract with the Celtics. The students from this group who improved the most were eligible to receive rewards from the team. In March, more than 500 tickets were given to students in this program.

To execute this mission, Step Your Game Up challenges students who are struggling with grades, attendance and tardiness to improve in order to potentially go to a Celtics game. Further, the top eight students from each of the participating schools had the opportunity to attend a bowling event with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo Tuesday afternoon.

Excitement radiated from the 80 youth as they entered the bowling alley and saw Rondo awaiting them. Before the bowling began, the kids received a warm welcome from the guard and praise for improving so much that it earned them an invite to the event.

“It’s great to see you all here today,” exclaimed Rondo. “Some of you haven’t missed a day of school since you signed the contract for this program. Others have gone from failing English or math to now making B’s and C’s. I’m impressed with your improvement and hope you enjoy bowling. One thing I want to stress is the need to continue on this positive path because it’s hard to be successful without an education. Don’t let this be the end but instead the beginning of a promising future.”

Following encouraging words from Rondo, the youth split up into 12 lanes and began bowling while being treated to pizza, chicken tenders and beverages. Rondo then spent his time going from lane to lane to personally meet each student.

While some students were shy at first, by the end of the conversation they were laughing and talking as if Rondo was an old friend.

“The Step Your Game Up program has meant so much to our students,” said Brenda Coaston-Lewis, a teacher at Young Achievers. “Oftentimes these youth are overlooked but because the Celtics care about every student succeeding, I have seen our students improve so much!”

As bowling ended, the youth gathered together to ask Rondo some questions. One student wanted to know what type of student he was.

“I wasn’t always the greatest student,” recalled the point guard, “and I’m not ashamed to admit that. However, in order to play sports and reach my goals of one day playing in the NBA, I knew that I had to put my education first. I loved math and doing well in that subject always came easy to me but I put in extra time for the other subjects. As high school went on, my grades improved and had over a 3.0 GPA. I’m a prime example that if you put your mind to it, you can succeed.”

Another student asked if there was ever a time he wanted to give up on basketball.

“I’m not a quitter and have never wanted to give up on basketball,” said Rondo. “There were times when I needed to improve on certain things and it just motivated me to work even harder. Even now playing in the NBA, I’m still motivated to get better. I’m a competitor and know it takes work to be a great player. You all should have that mindset with your education. In order to reach your goals, you should always want to succeed in school.”

With the question and answer period coming to a close, Rondo had one more surprise for the students. Each youth received a personalized, framed autograph photo of him! The youth couldn’t hide their enthusiasm as they cheered.

“Remember what I said at the beginning of this event,” said Rondo. “Don’t let this be the end of your improvement in school. Keep studying and doing your homework. Keep attending school every day. I’m proud of you and know you’re going to do great things in life.”