After his Hall of Fame basketball career ended with the New York Knicks in 1980, Earl Monroe launched the Earl Monroe Academy, a summer program in Harlem focused on educating kids through basketball.
Some three decades later, in 2013, Peabody Award winning New York filmmaker and basketball enthusiast Dan Klores approached Monroe about launching a historic school in New York City that would be the first specialty high school for basketball, but not for the playing of the game. Klores is the sole founder of the school.
“This was kind of a dream of mine,” the 76-year-old Monroe, a four-time NBA All-Star who helped lead the Knicks to their last NBA championship in 1973, said by phone.
“When Dan came to me in 2013, he told me about the idea and it just hit home.”
Now the dream has become a reality.
The non-profit school officially opened Aug. 30 with 110 students in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx. The permanent location is set to launch in the Mott Haven neighborhood during 2024.
“We wanted to be in the South Bronx from the beginning,” Monroe said. “It’s a community and borough that has vibrancy. We wanted to be part of that. We felt we could and can be an anchor tenant, helping to spur development and investment.”
So far Klores and his group have raised $4.7 million of their goal of in excess of $5.5 million, and donors include Nike, Citibank, the Gates Foundation, the NBA Foundation and others.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will go off on Wednesday and will feature Monroe, Klores, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and others. Dr. Kern Mojica, a 16-year educator who holds a PhD in computer science, serves as the charter’s head of school.
“With a revolutionary approach to education, Dan Klores and Earl Monroe are providing life-changing opportunities for young people through basketball,” Silver said in a statement. “Their new school will give students the resources they need to develop life-long learning skills and pursue careers related to the game.”
Students will choose from of a variety of basketball-related studies to major in such as:
- Entrepreneurial Business
- Science and Kinesiology
- Sports Journalism
- Computer Science
Andy Borman, a Duke alumnus who is the director of the NY Rens Nike-sponsored EYBL grassroots program, is the athletic director for the new school and has some interesting ideas about how to give the students real-life experience beyond the school’s basketball team itself.
“The cool stuff is what’s going to be done with basketball that’s not playing basketball,” Borman, who led the Rens to the semifinals of the prestigious Peach Jam this summer, said by phone.
“For example, I want to have photographers and videographers,” he added. “There’s this ninth grade girl who’s really into design and edits and so she’s going to work with us on edits.”
Borman also plans to help kids work on “analytics and print journalism.”
“I want to have a whole team of kids where they can write an article about an aspect of basketball and then take it to their English teacher” or a professional journalist,” he said.
Borman added: “I think that’s the part that’s super cool. Nowadays, there’s more jobs in basketball that are [centered around] not playing than there are jobs in basketball playing. No one talks about that.”
Since launching the Rens, Klores has learned how basketball can influence kids off the court just as much as on the court.
“The Rens has been a teaching tool for all of us,” Klores said. “We have placed 99% of our oldest kids in colleges, on scholarships, tutored them one-on-one at their homes, and we started the nation’s first orange emblem anti-gun violence campaign as an educational, activists, socio political tool. Without these experiences and lessons, there wouldn’t be a school.”