Today’s guest columnist is filmmaker Dan Klores.
Children are like leaders. They explore what is in front of them using their eyes. Likewise, as a teacher, school administrator, or counselor, it is real-life experience, inside and outside the classroom, that sees clearly.
What does the “big” class leader see? He or she must know the feints and steps of each child who enters the building. They must quickly develop common sense to feel the sleepless nights of the innocent, their empty stomachs early in the morning, the effects of screaming at home. Likewise, the great educator must see the joy of learning, of encouraging, of asserting oneself and of gradually building up self-confidence. Just as a leader knows how to reward teammates, students thrive most when the teacher acts as a mentor, encouraging personal growth and rewarding with truth rather than slogans.
We can learn a lot from basketball, including how to learn.
At its most basic level, I created the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball Charter High School (EMNRS) in New York City because it combined two of my lifelong loves – hoops and teaching.
Located in the South Bronx, coed EMNRS is the premier downtown high school for basketball, but not for the flow of the game. Its students walk through the doors every day with the hope that their passion for the City Game will be satisfied by opportunities offered not on the basketball court but through its surrounding ecosystem – only by discovering the world through the lens of basketball, they gain knowledge and access jobs in and around the sport that will bring about a prosperous and passionate future. We believe that providing these invaluable keys to all of our students is the true essence of social justice.
This year’s flagship freshman class of 110 students (total school enrollment will be 440 after graduation in 2025) is extremely underserved and black and brown. They entered the school by participating in a lottery for class places, and given the lottery system, we are not able to recruit athletes, which serves us very well. There are plenty of IMGs and Oak Hills for future pros. We had freshman teams this year – kids who play hard, care, love the game and are sure to get better. Our boys team lost to a tony private school, Horace Mann. Their annual tuition is $65,000. Ours is free. We will eventually bring them to the field, but that is not the point.
At EMNRS, a student’s dream of becoming a broadcaster, journalist, physical therapist, nutritionist, fashion designer, analytics expert, or team owner can begin to come true. We will help guide those who aspire to be sports psychologists, scouts, coaches, referees or general managers, as well as those interested in arena entertainment, team finance, marketing or to legal work.
As a tuition-free school, the gifts we can give are enormous. We hired seven full-time literacy enrichment teachers in October, which swelled our budget by $575,000 when diagnostic test results showed that our 9e-level students who read on average at 4e-school level. We have also raised enough to start the second year with a remarkable 4:1 student to staff ratio, far better than most institutions in this country, public or private.
All thanks to our trustees, advisors and donors, including Nike, JP Morgan, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Gatorade, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the NBA, NBA Players Association, Knicks, Yankees, Gates Foundation, Paul Simon, Bill Simmons, Melody Hobson, six Basketball Hall of Famers, businessmen, actors, entertainers and more lawyers than they should be allowed in one room. We are $3 million short of being self-sufficient, a goal we must achieve by December.
I now have new role models – educators and builders from other charter schools, who are experts in the pedagogy I dream of, which holistically combines special needs, literacy enrichment, behavioral issues and project-based learning.
We have a formidable enemy. It’s called 14 years of neglect. These students faced severe socio-economic challenges and hardships, and as if that weren’t enough, two years of COVID took them out of their seats at school and left many without a real way to learn.
I was always warned that opening a high school where we inherited lifelong issues was an extremely uphill battle. So what? Should we forget the children because they are older? I am more than optimistic, guided by the words of our Founding Trustee, David Stern, who said “a ball and a book can change the world”.
Our four walls are the embodiment of this promise. We follow proven successes in history. Nixon entered China with a ping pong ball. Arthur Ashe and Magic addressed HIV awareness. Billie Jean, Martina and Rick Welts fought against the prejudices of sexual orientation.
Eight years after I started this fight, we opened our doors in a temporary space inside a Catholic church with the full support of our community. In 2024/2025 we will be moving into our permanent home – a soon to be built five story, 67,000 square foot building in Mott Haven, where we intend to be the anchor tenant for further changes and investment. positive. These streets smell, sound and smell like the Brooklyn I grew up in 65 years ago. Fruit stands, bargain shops, hair salons, payment accounts and subway els. I see my dead mother taking two buses to work, except now she’s wearing a different coat and has a different colored face.
We’ve gotten to the heart of the matter, including property losses and the heartbreaking deaths of David Stern and another of our early supporters, Lewis Katz. We failed to establish a necessary culture from the start. Often I thought about quitting and rarely got a good night’s sleep. No matter.
The deepest reason for starting this school goes back to childhood and early adulthood when I struggled emotionally and academically. It was only through the support and embrace of a handful of special people who opened my eyes and guided me that I found a world that accepted me and offered me opportunities. Without them, I would be dead. I attribute my life to the teachers, coaches and mentors who passed away: Ben Jobe, Gary David Goldberg, Teddy Steinberg and David Stern. I stand today, no longer alone, but swinging.
The ball is in our hands now. At our ribbon-cutting ceremony, Adam Silver (who was joined by Earl Monroe and Michele Roberts from the Players Association) was swarmed like he was Jay Z by screaming student admirers. He let them know that for every NBA and WNBA player, there are at least 100 jobs. out of the field, and urged our children to take advantage of the opportunity that the EMNRS offers them. As Earl’s mentor and Hall of Fame coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines told him, “When the opportunity comes, it’s time to walk through the door.”
Klores is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker and playwright. His latest film, 20 hour, 10 game “Basketball: A Love Story” aired on ESPN.