Jalen Rose’s relationship with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores vital in charter school’s educational mission

Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

When the topic turns to the public charter school that bears his name, Jalen Rose becomes a preacher.

The ESPN/ABC analyst, who starred at Michigan and played 13 seasons in the NBA, mimics a proud parent while advocating for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, which he co-founded in 2011.

The passion is also apparent when he brings up JRLA benefactors like the Detroit Pistons, owner Tom Gores and vice chairman Arn Tellem.

“So many things literally come from donors, and that's why it's very important to not only spread the word about what we're doing, but also hopefully have game-changing donors that can really help influence the vision that I have for JRLA,” Rose told Pistons.com Wednesday afternoon.

This will be the seventh straight year that Platinum Equity, the firm Gores founded in 1995, will sponsor the Jalen Rose Golf Classic, the annual fundraiser for the school located in the northeast Detroit neighborhood where Rose grew up. Hosted by the Detroit Golf Club on Sunday and Monday, the event will follow the club’s social distancing guidelines and protocols as the world still copes with the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will be the 10th time celebrities and politicians will come together to help the school’s mission to provide an educational lifeline that starts in the ninth grade and lasts through college.

The mission is even more critical as students start the 2020-21 school year under the specter of the pandemic. Rose said the school will use distance learning for the first few months – a task helped by Arn and Nancy Tellem’s donation of nearly $140,000 to purchase laptops.

For Arn Tellem, who joined the Pistons in 2015, it’s an easy cause to support. He has known Rose since his playing days, when he served as Rose’s agent. Tellem had an inkling Rose’s social awareness would lead to his focus on education.

“The thing that always impressed me about him was that he had a social conscience, wanted to give back to Detroit, wanted to make a difference in his hometown,” Tellem said. “He recognized the platform that he had to do good things, he didn't run away from it.

“Jalen has been one of the leaders making a difference in this community for a long time.”

 There from Day 1

 NBA star David Robinson and tennis great Andre Agassi were the role models.

Robinson founded Carver Academy in San Antonio; Agassi’s foundation opened the Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas.

But for Rose, the relationship with the Gores family goes beyond the financial support provided to the school.

Rose recalls Platinum executives joining him on trips to the JRLA campus shortly after the school opened.

In 2013, Gores and his wife, Holly, donated $250,000 to the JRLA. Starting the following year, Gores and Platinum Equity have served as presenting sponsors for the event. Rose easily recalls visits to the couple’s home in Los Angeles. They have bonded over their shared Michigan upbringings.

“They've always been loving, caring, thoughtful, and trying to figure out ways that they can help and support,” Rose said. “The way he loves Flint and the way he knows Michigan State, for them to fly the JRLA flag in the same manner, it really means a lot to me.”

It’s support that Rose finds even more relevant now with big business trying to find the right words and actions to address decades of systemic racism in this country.

“You see corporations and companies sending out e-mails and promising to be more diverse, and how they are open to make change and to listen,” Rose said. “At 47, I've heard that my whole life, but then there are some people that actually step up and do it.

"That's what Tom and Holly was able to do with JRLA. And that support has been there since day one. Whether it's donating so we can get some of the things done at JRLA, but also sponsoring our golf outings and bringing other relationships to the table that either become donors or people that show support in another way, it’s major.”

 COVID-19 challenges

 The pandemic has presented daunting challenges for education.

Those challenges are even more problematic for students of color.

A study by Burbio, a website tracking school openings, found that half of U.S. elementary and high school students will learn virtually to start the school year. All students don’t have access to home Internet service nor an acceptable device to navigate distance schooling.

“Sometimes people forget what privilege really means,” Rose said.  “You deal with a dynamic of young scholars that don't have Internet service, that don't have computers at home.”

The Tellems’ donation will help JRLA greatly. Arn Tellem is a board member of the Detroit Children’s Fund (DCF) and the contribution was part of a broader city initiative.

“Nancy and I wanted to give to a school where we knew that every student would receive the benefits of our donation,” Tellem said. “When we were looking at ways to contribute and help, (the JRLA) was the first place we looked. “It was exciting for us to be able to write one check and help every student get a computer and have Internet access, which will help considerably, whether it's through remote learning or helping once they return to normal classrooms.”

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