Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yankees Star Gives Time, Money, and Expertise to New York Charter School Effort

New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira in late 2008.
Things can frequently get heated between both sides in the midst of the fight for school choice, as we saw earlier this year at our annual National Policy Summit. But however angry the sides get when it comes to educational reform and expanded options, it’s safe to say we’re on better terms than at least one group of well-known adversaries: the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

If you’ve never lived in either city, it’s tough to comprehend the level of hatred. But even from a national perspective, you can tell that there’s a great deal of contempt between the two franchises and their fans. It’s rare to find a fan of one of the squads offering any praise for a member of the other.

But no matter what you think of the guys on the field—whether you’re from the Bronx or the very heart of Beantown—it’s hard not to like a guy like Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira (teh-SHARE-uh).

In an era dominated by allegations of steroid-use and disappointing behavior off the field, Teixeira spends his free time doing things that are light on tabloid-fodder but heavy on importance.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a profile of the Yankees star that delves into his charity work in Harlem, which has received the public endorsement of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Here’s an excerpt about Harlem RBI—the charity that Teixeira runs—that we found especially noteworthy:
New York has given Teixeira the home he desperately wanted and now he wants to give back. Most off-days, that starts at the offices of Harlem RBI, the East Harlem-based charity that Teixeira has taken as his own. The organization operates youth baseball programs and runs its own DREAM Charter school inside a New York City public school. The program's directors hoped to someday have their own independent facility but didn't have the fund-raising power to make that happen.
But Teixeira is more than just a public face for the organization and school. He’s actively involved in actually working with kids, as well as raising funds to ultimately secure a stand-alone building for the burgeoning charter school. Says the WSJ:
He began coming weekly, arriving at the school whenever possible to spend time with the kids, then going upstairs to discuss fund raising with the higher-ups and supporters. His ability to relate to both the kids and the financial backers raised eyebrows. "Mark's a very genuine guy," [Harlem RBI Executive Director Rich] Berlin said. "Look, obviously, he's very polished, and he's a sharp guy, but he doesn't put his energy and time into something unless he believes in it. And he believes in what we're doing here," Berlin said. 
The school's principal, Eve Colavito, was floored that Teixeira just kept coming back, week after week, for hours on end. Before games. On days off.
"It's nice to lend a name. But to actually have him show up at the school? To have him be our honoree at our annual event? He wanted to dive deep into something. He didn't want just some surface connection to the kids or the cause," Colavito said.
With the economy what it is, one could expect fundraising efforts to be slow, but Teixeira has been invaluable in working towards the goal of securing $20 million in private funding to give the school a new home. So far, he’s given $1 million of his own money, and has actively recruited another $6 million in donations.

We told you a while back about the school choice contributions from NBA star Jalen Rose, and the importance of endorsements of expanding options from people like him and Teixeira can’t be overstated. Their involvement can only help the broader public understand the educational plight of so many low-income families across the country, which will ultimately push legislators to do the right thing when it comes to giving kids options.

Even Boston fans would agree that that’s good thing.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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