As a new school year starts in the midst of a global pandemic, Malcolm Brogdon is doing his part to help students in underserved communities in Indianapolis.
On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Pacers point guard will be on local airwaves for the Brogdon Family Foundation Radiothon, which will air on 107.5 The Fan from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The radiothon is the first major fundraiser of the JHA Education Project, one of the main initiatives of the Brogdon Family Foundation, which launched in July.
Education was always something emphasized in Brogdon's family. His grandfather and the namesake of the JHA Education Project, John H. Adams, became the nation's youngest college president at the age of 29 in 1956. His mother Jann Adams, the Executive Director of the Brogdon Family Foundation, is an Associate Vice President at Morehouse College. And Brogdon himself earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees while starring on the basketball court at the University of Virginia.
So in starting his foundation, Brogdon wanted one pillar to be working with students in underserved communities.
"I grew up with a lot of the necessities," Brogdon said. "I grew up with plenty. I think there are a lot of inner-city schools with children that don't have enough. For me, I think that's a gap that I and the foundation, with my mom and this team, can help fill."
Brogdon and his family formed a relationship with Indianapolis Public Schools last fall and IPS helped identify four schools in different parts of the city that the Brogdon Family Foundation plans to work with over the coming school year. They hope to expand their work to more schools and other communities, but it was important for Brogdon that their education initiatives started in Indianapolis.
"I've identified strongly with this city," he said. "I think they've really gotten behind me, the fans, the Pacers organization. The people of this city have really embraced me and I want to give back.
"This is the community that I live in, these are the people that I see every single day, and these are the kids and the schools that I can have the biggest immediate impact on right now."
Next week's radiothon will feature interviews with Brogdon as well as other athletes and celebrities. An online auction launched Thursday at BFF2020.givesmart.com and will run through the conclusion of the radiothon. Fans can bid on autographed items, memorabilia, in-studio experiences for each of The Fan's three weekday radio shows, and the signature prize — three hours with Brogdon at Topgolf for the winner and nine friends. Fans interested in the auction can text BFF2020 to 76278 to donate and bid on items.
"One of the beauties of the radiothon is that I think it will be a way for people to understand what the foundation is about, to learn about the foundation, to learn about the education initiative, to learn about the partnership with the Pacers and their commitment to education, and then even to learn about the specific schools we're supporting," Adams said.
"I think people will be drawn to it because there will be celebrities and athletes that are coming on, but I really hope that it will be a way for people to get invested in those schools and to say 'Oh, here's a way I can help with these schools.' To hear these principals talk, they're so amazing and so committed and doing such great work."
The four schools the foundation is currently working with are Global Prep Academy at Riverside 44, Floro Torrence School 83, James Whitcomb Riley School 43, and Eleanor Skillen School 34. The JHA Eduction Project will focus on literacy, mentoring, and providing high impact educational experiences at those schools.
The first initiative at these schools is called the Collaborative Family Book Club, which is open to all students and parents at the four schools. The principals at the four schools handpicked the first book, "Finding Langston" by Lesa Cline-Ransome, and every child at the schools will either read or have the book read to them and then can discuss it in virtual book club meetings this fall with Brogdon and others.
In the spring, the foundation will have different activations at each school depending on the school's mission and needs. Those activations include providing books and supplies for experiments at school focused on STEAM, doing mentoring programs at a bilingual school focused on social justice, amplifying another school's focus on acts of kindness, and creating a virtual college tour for eighth-graders at a school focused on college readiness.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education system, Adams marveled at the work these schools have done to keep their students engaged.
"The principals are just extraordinary," she said. "They are assuring that every child has what they need in order to learn, the WiFi, the equipment they need, they deliver books, the school system is providing meals…the level of commitment among the leadership of Indianapolis Public Schools has just really been extraordinary. Seeing that is inspiring because you know that there are so many challenges that they're facing."
Both Brogdon and Adams said they view it as especially important to empower education at these schools during the uncertainty of the pandemic. Their hope is to help bridge the "achievement gap" that exists between students from underserved communities and students with better means, but the pandemic has made bridging that gap even more challenging.
"The need for us to be as active and engaged and supportive of what the schools are already doing, I think it's really, really important," Adams said.