Magic Host Fourth Annual Magic of Mentoring Minority Male Youth Summit

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - NBA players, when talking about their journeys to the pros, will often say mentors played a big part in their rise through the ranks.

These guiding lights, which include family members, sports coaches, school teachers, teammates and close friends, instilled confidence in them. Without that encouragement and care, many of them would probably not be wearing NBA uniforms today.

Not everyone is so lucky, though. Plenty of great athletes with just as much talent fail to become professional ballers because mentors were not there for them when tough times struck. The same thing unfortunately happens outside of sports, where a lack of support prevented youth from reaching their full potential.

On a mission to reduce how often this occurs, the Orlando Magic continue to lend a helping hand to at-risk youth who are trying to stay on the right track.

On Friday in celebration of National Mentoring Awareness Month, the team hosted their fourth annual Magic of Mentoring Minority Male Youth Summit, where more than 150 boys from Orange County Public Schools and the Parramore Kidz Zone received real life guidance on self-efficacy, crime prevention and empowerment.

The event began with an inspirational speech from Kendall Ficklin, a business owner and author who coaches, consults and motivates others. He himself didn’t have anyone pushing him to be great when he was a kid. Now, though, after realizing how critical it is for children to have mentors and role models, the 51-year-old is on a mission to encourage youth by sharing his wisdom and experiences with them.

“I always tell young people wherever I go, I wish I had me when I was growing up,” he said. “I don’t remember a time when anyone came to the school to speak to us. For me personally, I didn’t have that push. I was average, so I wasn’t pushed to be above average. And I think had I probably had that, seen that and been familiar with that, there’s no telling where I could be.”

The Magic getting involved, as Ficklin points out, makes a huge difference, too. His philosophy, which is also shared by other spearheads across the globe, is that every leader’s responsibility is to engender more leaders. It brings Ficklin tremendous joy to join forces with the Magic on this quest.

“It’s an honor and I’m grateful because they could have picked anybody,” he said about being chosen by the Magic to be this year’s keynote speaker. “To even be recognized and say come work with us, let’s partner together to do something, that’s huge and I don’t take that lightly.”

Other speakers at Friday’s event, which took place at Amway Center shortly before the Magic hosted the Washington Wizards, included Orlando Inc. Executive Vice President John Davis, Valencia Downtown Campus Executive Dean Eugene Jones, City of Orlando Fire Deputy Chief Ian Davis, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon, several Orange County school principals and Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw.

For Anderson, whose mentors growing up included his father and uncles, the greatest joy is seeing the kids take the advice they’ve been given and use it to chase their dreams. The Chicago native, who was the first ever draft pick of the Magic in 1989, is proud to be in a position where he can mentor youth and teach them about the importance of hard work and persistence.

“When a kid comes up to you and tells you about the time that he or she had with you and how it affected them to do something positive and do great things, that’s a great feeling,” Anderson said.

“I do the same thing with my boys, mentor them, no matter how old they are getting,” he added. “What I’ve experienced in my life, I should be sharing with not only mine but others. So I’m grateful. I’m honored and it’s a privilege to be able to do something about that.”

The Magic started their mentoring initiative so that they can help reduce the achievement gap among local minority youth by exposing them to careers in sports and providing them with educational experiences. They are also encouraging Central Florida males to join My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative designed to help more young people stay on the right path while they pursue academic and career opportunities. To become a mentor, sign up at www.CityofOrlando.net/MyBrothersKeeper
or visit www.ocps.net.

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