Gordon Provides STEM Learning Opportunities to Underserved Youth

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - With Aaron Gordon now in his fifth season with the Orlando Magic, you probably already know plenty about the 6-foot-9, 220-pounder’s athletic gifts and basketball talents. He keeps getting better too, a testament to his outstanding work ethic, devotion to his profession and passion for the sport.

From the moment the Magic drafted him, you in all likelihood have also picked up on the now-23-year-old’s missions off the court. Emboldening youth continues to be a prime focus for Gordon, who has spent much of his time strengthening other people’s lives when he is away from the gym.

Inculcated into his set of core values from an early age by his family, Gordon appreciates every chance he gets to inspire others, especially when it comes to children and their education. Taught at an early age about the importance of building a strong, healthy mind, the San Jose native now wants to share that insight with kids.

Gordon also wants students to know that learning can and should be fun, particularly when technology is involved, which is why he and his family are starting a STEM education program, CodeOrlando.

Through various creative technology projects, CodeOrlando will give students from underserved communities a great opportunity to enhance their knowledge of computer science and robotics.

To tip off this initiative, the Magic forward surprised students at Orange County Public Schools’ (OCPS) Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) by participating in a hands-on robotics programming experience hosted by Facebook and Sphero. Students learned to program Sphero robotic balls through simple block level commands, giving them a greater appreciation for the essential fundamentals and principles of coding.

“Today was awesome, everybody got together and everybody was cooperating and communicating,” said Gordon, who also donated $6,000 on behalf of his Gordon Family Foundation to ACE so that the coding program can be taught throughout the year and to allow the school to purchase the equipment needed to expand the program. “It was just a really high energy and a good, fun time for people to get together and learn about themselves, learn about each other and code as well.”

“Some of these kids don’t even believe or see that they can be something greater, so just giving them opportunities to see that they have potential for so many more things in life, I really hope this sparks some innovation and creativity in these kids,” he added.

Beaming from ear to ear as she watched her son, Aaron, share this experience with all the students, Shelly Davis is incredibly gratified to see first-hand the impact he is having on the Central Florida community.

“I am really proud of him, and his brother and sister too because they all have that spirit of giving back and we have been doing this ever since the kids were little, working with homeless shelters and Christmas drives and all sorts of different activities,” said Davis, who was also on hand during Thursday’s event to help motivate the students. “The fact that he’s feeling passionate about it and really wants to pursue this in a big way and not just make change for a day but make very systemic change is really what I am proudest of.”

For 35 years, Davis worked in the semiconductor industry, so seeing her three kids take so much interest in a field that she had such a huge impact on throughout her career is very heartwarming as well. It isn’t too much of a surprise, though, considering Gordon and his two siblings have always cared deeply about their education.

“I’ve always known that I’m more than just a basketball player,” Gordon said. “We have so much potential as human beings and I just want people to realize their potential and do that through the mind.”