Students inspired by Detroit Pistons players

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit Pistons rookies Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije shared with students Friday how to dream big and allow mentors to help them reach their goals.

Ellenson, 19, and Gbinije, 24, visited the Frederick Douglass Academy for Young Men to discuss the value of mentorship and importance of succeeding in school, in support of President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. They answered questions from the eager students, shook hands, graciously posed for photos and handed out backpacks.

“I really enjoyed meeting them because I’m a fan of basketball,” said Markel Stokes II, 16, an 11th grader who plays football. “It was really great for them to give back to Detroit, to talk to us and give away backpacks because some people here don’t have backpacks.”

He paused and added, “They’ll get their blessings for doing this.”

In 2014, Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. The coordinated federal effort seeks to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure all young people can reach their full potential.

In response to the president’s call to action, nearly 250 communities in all 50 states have accepted the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge. Additionally, more than $600 million in private sector and philanthropic grants and in-kind resources and $1 billion in low-interest financing have been committed in alignment with the initiative. New federal policy initiatives, grant programs, and guidance are also being implemented to ensure every child has a clear pathway to success, according to the MBK website.

Detroit Public Schools interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather also visited the school Friday and posed for photos with the rookies.

“Elements of teamwork, dedication and perseverance go far,” said Meriweather, who expressed gratitude to the Pistons players for spending time with the students.

The rookies earned applause Friday from students after explaining how they pursued their dreams.

“In order to reach your dreams, you have to believe in yourself, and believe that you deserve it,” said Gbinije. “Then you have to know you can achieve it.”

Ellenson added he always saw himself in his current position.

“Sometimes it is tough, because your dream may seem so far away, but you just have to stick with it,” he said. “I stayed very late in the gym and got up early to work out and worked very hard to get here.”

Principal Berry Green said he was delighted to have the Pistons as guests.

“Their being here gives the kids a visual,” he said. “They look up to sports figures and they’re hearing them say you can do it. You can see what they means to them in their faces.”

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