Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Want to make it in the pros? Better get an education

By Jalen Rose
Former 13-year NBA veteran and current ESPN/ABC analyst

As the battle continues for the Lawrence O’Brien trophy between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, hundreds of thousands of children and teens are having visions of becoming a professional athlete like their favorite superstars. Sadly, for many of them locked in underperforming schools, that’s the only reason they consider reaching higher education.

I do not want to dash the hopes of any child’s dream of becoming an athlete, but the easiest way to obtain a better education and a successful future shouldn’t be attached only to athletic endeavors. We need to set our children on the path to be successful “professionals” – engineers, teachers, doctors and nurses, business owners, and on and on, not just professional athletes.

Our education system needs reform.  The graduation rate for African-American youth is 47 percent - that’s 31 percentage points lower than the national average. An athletic scholarship shouldn’t be the best opportunity to receive a quality education. That’s why I’ve teamed up with the American Federation for Children and become an advocate for educational choice. Parents should have more options and students should be able to attend a quality school that meets their needs.

My passion for quality educational options also led me to start the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Founded in 2011, we partner with the University of Detroit Mercy to provide college courses to upper level students.

The school’s motto, “Enter a learner: Exit a leader” exemplifies the school’s goals: Provide students with the best education to help them become well-versed and educated to handle themselves in real life situations. We also made the commitment to guarantee that at least 85 percent of our students graduate high school, 85 percent go onto college and 85 percent earn a college diploma.

In less than the span of two weeks, Louisiana and Iowa, respectively, expanded their educational options for children. That’s a huge productive step that will have a positive impact on the lives of countless children. Meanwhile, the opportunity to go to college on an athletic scholarship remains difficult, and making it for a long-lasting career in the NBA even more improbable. It’s illogical that children are denied educational choice and too often left banking on their athletic prowess as their only way to reach higher education. As kids continue to dream about playing hoops, I encourage parents to join me and demand that better quality educational options be available for children everywhere.

To learn more about educational choice contact my friends at the American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice.