It’s no secret Americans value sports. Young boys in particular dream of playing professional basketball or football, relishing the idea of fame and fortune. This dream grows in underprivileged areas.
I once presented at career day at a high school in Detroit. When I went around the room to ask students what they wanted to be when they grew up, the majority of the boys wanted to play professional basketball or football. Never mind that they were smaller than me (and who knows if they had any talent). That was their dream.
My presentation turned into explaining that even the brightest stars need an education.
What will these players do once their playing days are over in their late 20s or early 30s? Money runs out.
The boys in particular were genuinely stunned.
Million Dollar Mistake
It’s so common in professional sports it’s depressing. Young men dream of becoming a professional athlete because it will “set them up for life.” They are the rare exception that actually has the talent. They make it, they blow their money, and they don’t know what to do with their lives.
The value of education rings true on a number of levels in that scenario. Not only are these kids lost in terms of vocation, they could have spared themselves wasting the money in the first place had they received an education in life skills.
Jordan Morgan grew up in Detroit, Mich. with a single mother, spending a brief period in a homeless shelter. Jordan was adopted by his dad at 13 and grew up knowing the value of an education.
A talented basketball player, Jordan was recruited to play at the University of Michigan. Instead of focusing solely on sports, he earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering.
“My favorite toy growing up was Legos,” he told a Michigan radio station. “I was always a taker, a builder. I was always really good at math and I love science, but not everybody has the same exposure I had or the same experiences I had.”
A Change Advocate
Now a professional basketball player overseas, Jordan’s foundation, The Jordan Morgan Foundation, ensures kids in Detroit are exposed to education the way he was.
His annual basketball camp incorporates lessons in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and academic excellence, and his inaugural LAUNCH! STEM program is allowing 100 Detroit-area students a six-week walk through science, technology, engineering, and math.
Both programs are free.
Jordan’s STEM program does more than put kids in a classroom to listen to ideas. While the teachers at all three sites follow the STEM.org curriculum, the foundation asked STEM.org for recommendations before putting field trips into place for the students.
“We have visited Willow Run Airport, Yankee Air Museum, Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, Google Headquarters, and the Michigan Science Center, and will be meeting at the Taubman Architecture Center at Michigan,” said Jordan.
“Our goal is to inspire the next generation of learners growing up in an area where they otherwise may not have been exposed to STEM subjects.”
The JMF partnered with Detroit Area Pre College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) to connect with students interested in attending. The concept was so well received that the foundation’s original goal of 40 students was eclipsed by 60.
“We didn’t feel right turning down the kids, so we opened two additional sites to accommodate them,” said Jordan. “This means we need to raise additional funds.”
LAUNCH! STEM has one week remaining before it wraps up its inaugural year. The foundation is receiving positive responses from both parents and students, who are returning home after the program touting what they’ve learned.
“It shows that our participants have not only internalized the things that they’ve learned, but there’s been a transfer into their actions, what they talk about, and what they do at home,” said Jordan.