If he can be a success, your kid can be one, too

Ex-NBA star Wali Jones delivers his message through a two-day workshop.

Published January 10, 2007

A former NBA star is coming to St. Petersburg to spread the word that all children, even those most at risk, can succeed in the classroom if they stay focused and work hard.

Wali Jones, who in the 1960s played for the Philadelphia 76ers, will present his nationally acclaimed Shoot for the Stars program Friday and Saturday on the Gibbs campus of St. Petersburg College. The free two-day event is geared toward students who may be at risk for school failure as measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The program also includes skill-building workshops for parents to help them learn how to better prepare their children for school, said Sami Scott, local organizer for the event.

"We're talking to the choir most of the time," Scott said. "But many parents never get connected to their children's educational needs."

After his retirement from the NBA, Jones worked for the U.S. Department of Education as a human development trainer; he supervised a 10-state region that included 400 school districts. His audience then was teachers. Now, it's kids.

One of nine children, Jones tells his young audiences about how he grew up surrounded by gang activity in his inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood. He talks about how he beat the odds and attended Villanova University on a basketball scholarship, then beat the odds again, when at 6 foot 2, he signed on with the NBA.

He played 10 years in the league and was a member of the 76ers' championship team in 1967.

His message: All children can achieve their wildest dreams if they set a goal and work toward it.

"There will always be distractions and more fun things for kids to do than sitting still and doing their homework," Scott said. "What Wali shows kids is that there's a huge value in becoming part of a team with their teacher and principal."

Shoot for the Stars is sponsored by the NAACP's Education: Who Cares? program and Everyone's Youth United.