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Ambassador Magazine Nov/Dec 2009 – Pay It Forward

November 23, 2009

ambassadormagNBA All-Star Jalen Rose Gives Hope Through His Foundation’s Efforts…  Jalen Rose overcame a humble beginning on Detroit’s west side to become a college basketball phenomenon, an all-star on the professional level, and a national television personality.  Rose would be the first to tell you that none of it would have been possible without a tight family and group of mentors. 

Rose says, “I’m a product of the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’  My Mom is like my rock, and my Grandma as well.  I had a strong family situation even though I grew up and never met my biological dad.  I can’t thank enough people who were a part of the village that helped raise me.” 

Rose says his most influential mentors include former University of Detroit basketball coach Perry Watson and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and they instilled in him a desire to make a better life for his family.

“I was thinking ‘What’s going to make me special?’  Rose says. “I was lucky enough to have basketball as my driving force, but if that didn’t happen, I knew I had to have something to fall back on.  So I was always a good student – an honor roll student in high school, I made the Dean’s List at University of Michigan.  Education was always a priority, and something that you can’t take for granted.”

Rose took those lessons to heart, and when it was his turn to be a leader, he says he passed along what he had learned, “As a high school student, I was able to be a coach at some basketball camps.  I would teach kids drills, but also talk to them about life skills and academics.  Playing sports is what got me into giving back to others in the community. As I grew up and matured, it just naturally came from that,” he says.

That’s what led to the birth of The Jalen Rose Foundation in 2000.  Rose says the reason for the Foundation is simple, “Growing up on the west side, I know what it’s like to be a have-not.  But I also understand what it’s like to be a have-not without hope.  Those are two different things.  Basically we want to help to instill hope and let our neighbors know that we really care about them.”

Since it’s inception, the Jalen Rose Foundation has donated more than one million dollars, including 37 scholarships to kids from the city of Detroit.  All of them are amazing people, Rose says. “They come from situations where they have to take care of their younger brothers and sisters because they live in households without any parents.  And after school they do charity and community work, and STILL get straight A’s and have perfect attendance.  These are heroic stories.”

Though he doesn’t do it for the accolades, Rose has been recognized for his philanthropy.  He recently received the Community Champion Award from Black Enterprise, and was featured on their Top Foundation list.  It was quite a thrill according to Rose, “This little skinny kid from Detroit’s West Side was listed next to Oprah Winfrey, Bob Johnson, Magic Johnson – these are moguls.  That meant a lot to me, but also inspired me to want to work harder and do more and really make an influence and an impact.”

Rose has achieved many amazing accomplishments in his life, but he says the thrills he had playing basketball cannot compare to the feeling he gets when he hands a scholarship to a deserving Detroiter.  “On the court it makes me feel like Jalen Rose – a guy who is a basketball player who had a great NBA career.  To give back to a kid makes me feel like I’m Michael Jordan, I’m Magic Johnson, I’m Muhammad Ali.  It’s bigger than a game. It’s bigger than the sport.  To be able to give a kid a nudge and a little support – it means the world to me.” ~Rob Otto

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