By Barrett Neale
Local organizations have come together to encourage a group of high school sophomores to improve their grades.
The Shoes for Grades program is challenging students at five schools in Maryland to raise their fall semester grade point average one letter from the previous semester, or maintain an A average. Students who achieve that goal will receive a free pair of Under Armour shoes.
Shoes for Grades was originally the brainchild of Holabird Sports, a family-owned sports equipment and apparel store, which worked with two schools in 1999. Sports Boosters of Maryland and PressBox got involved several years ago, including 12 schools during the program's second offering.
Administrators in the local school systems chose the five high schools participating in 2012: Northwestern (Baltimore City), Winters Mill (Carroll County), Homewood Center (Howard County), Joppatowne (Harford County) and Woodlawn (Baltimore County). The program is for the sophomores at each school, encompassing about 1,000 students.
The lead sponsor for this year's program is the Zolet Lenet Financial Group. One of the partners, Gary Lenet, is a member of Sports Boosters' board of directors and the organization's Shoes for Grades chairman. Lenet and other members of Sports Boosters, in association with PressBox and radio station 92Q, have held assemblies at each of the five schools to kick off the program.
After the students finish the fall semester, there will be assemblies to give out shoes to the students who meet their GPA goals. Under Armour is providing the shoes at a significant discount, Lenet said, and Sports Boosters is currently raising money to cover the cost.
One new element for this year's assemblies is that 92Q DJ Konan came to the schools and gave a presentation. Lenet also said Ravens receiver Torrey Smith was a spokesman for Shoes for Grades and would be promoting the program as well.
Dave McCallister, promotions director and event planner for 92Q, said station employees often visited schools, and he thought the students had responded well to Konan's presentation.
"It was a win-win for everybody," McCallister said. "Konan, he loves to do stuff in the schools. He jumped on it right away. It's good work for the station, helping out to try to motivate these kids to do better. It's just the perfect tie-in. We were happy to be involved."
Konan said he enjoyed going to local schools and giving back to the community, because he could share the perspective of someone who overcame the challenges he'd had in high school. In his speech to students, Konan talked about how he used to be a class clown and had to repeat the 10th grade.
"It was no longer funny for me to be the class clown," Konan said, "because everybody was laughing at me at that point. ... When you go home and look in the mirror, you have to know that you gave your best effort every day when you came to school."
Konan said he stayed in touch with some of the students he met at the assemblies, texting or calling them to monitor how they're doing. A lot of students do want some motivation, Konan said, and feel that nobody's listening to their cries for help. He said the people involved with Shoes for Grades were paying attention and wanted to help.
Lent said Sports Boosters was committed to promoting education and athletics in underprivileged areas.
"Sports Boosters donates money to a lot of different programs and projects across the board," Lenet said. "It's not just any one thing. … Anything we can do to help benefit some underprivileged children, trying to show them a better life and trying to motivate them to try and achieve on their own."
More Cheap Seats:
• Blast Rearing Pair Of New Keepers
• Former Bees Visit Life-changing Coach
• Mustangs' Freshmen Breaking New Ice
• Eight New Members Enter Lacrosse HOF
• Byron Knows His Way In JFK 50-Mile Race
• Shoes For Grades Targets Better Marks
Issue 179: November 2012