For a few years now, Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young has been dedicated to making his contribution to Black History Month. This year, Young teamed up with the Lakers Youth Foundation and AEG/Staples Center to host two inner city youth non-profit organizations (The Brotherhood Crusade and Chain Reaction) for a VIP Lakers game experience, with an impact that goes far beyond the basketball court.
From the heaps of catered food, to the giftbags, giveaways and special guests, it was a once in a lifetime experience focused on kids in underserved areas, many of which were in the foster care system. But, the kids spent just as much time watching the game, as they did talking to all the special guests, asking questions and even learning about the multitude of jobs available in the sports community.
“We want them to channel all of that energy and take it back to the classroom, take it back to their homes, take it back to the after school programs they are involved in, be respectful of their parents and other adults in their life, just really channel all that positive energy because there’s more opportunities like this, if they get good grades, if they excel in sports, music or the arts, so we really like to use these opportunities as a springboard to help motivate them to do even more,” said Executive Director of the Lakers Youth Foundation Kiesha Nix.
“I hope that they can take away that it doesn’t matter that you’re a foster care youth, that you can be like anyone else,” said CEO of Chain Reaction Jessica Saint-Paul. “Tonight I want you to feel like I’m cared, I’m loved, I can do anything and be anywhere, it doesn’t matter that I’m in foster care, it’s a label they gave to me, but not a label I’m going to claim.”
Former Lakers champion AC Green was walking around and talking to kids as they came up and introduced themselves, and told them what types of dreams they have. For A.C., his smile was nearly as big as all the young and eager hopefuls.
“They talk of career, they talk of challenges, talk of some of their struggles, but they’re so optimistic about their future,” Green said. “And, it just brings even greater hope inside of me, and it’s like what more can I do to help them succeed.”
“Remember where you come from is huge,” Green said of Black History Month. “It’s a cultural thing, especially in a lot of African American families. Remembering Black History Month and those that have helped pave the way for you, open a door for you, provide an opportunity for you, maybe 50 years, 10 years, or just last year or last week but just remembering when someone has done an act of kindness for you is something to always reflect on and remember, so you can try to pass it on yourself.”
Larry Abel, Manager of Business Development at AEG/Staples Center, was also walking around and talking to all of the kids in attendance about how he got to where he is.
“You can be, what you can see,” Abel said. “I always want to be that positive role model for kids to look up to so they can see and dream and envision doing these types of things for their community and themselves.”
When Swaggy P entered the room, his smile was infectious. The kids swarmed around him as he took pictures with anyone who asked. His mother and father were standing nearby with smiles on their faces as they watched their son touch so many kids lives.”
For Nick, this was a dream he always had.
“I’m from LA, I remember growing up in LA, I always wanted to meet the players, I’ve been a Laker fan all my life, so the chance to give back to them in Black History Month is great,” Young smiled.