Earl "The Pearl" Monroe is working to take the relationship between sports and education to the next level. On Aug. 30, the first basketball-specialized high school in the country will open its doors to students.
The Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School is not the first community-uplifting venture Monroe has endeavored upon, but it has been a long-sought dream.
"This is so much more broader and more magnificent than I could ever have thought of," Monroe said.
During the 1980s, the Hall of Famer took his NBA legacy beyond the court to create the Earl Monroe Academy, a summer program focused on educating kids through sports. When Dan Klores (Founder and Broad President) approached Monroe about developing a school centered around basketball, an encouraging momentum shot them forward.
With help from others around the NBA and throughout the world of basketball, a well-rounded Board of Trustees and Board of Advisors helped turn Monroe's efforts into a historical structure of possibilities.
"We surrounded ourselves with people who understand the game, but also the importance of what the games give you and what you can take from the game," Monroe said.
Sticking to his New York roots, the nonprofit high school will open temporarily in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx, but the permanent location is set to open in the Mott Haven neighborhood during 2024.
"We wanted to get into an area that really needs to have this type of school," Monroe said. "The Mott Haven area of the Bronx is the third-poorest district in New York City."
The student body will be comprised 100% of children of color, surrounded by a team of academic leadership and support including: nurses, in-house social and emotional health professionals, mentors, college and career counselors.
In an area where teachers can be overwhelmed by the number of students in a classroom, the New Renaissance School will implement two full-time teachers in each 18-to-20-student classroom.
"We're using basketball not for the sport of basketball, but for the true learning tool so to speak, for teaching and inspiring and embracing self-confidence and motivation for kids in that area," Monroe said.
The connection between arts, education and sports has been a central building block of the school. Seven years ago, Klores introduced the New Renaissance Basketball Association (RENS) to help historically disadvantaged youth access college admissions and scholarship awards. When he and Monroe came together, the school's foundation was cemented.
Each student will have the ability to choose a basketball-related study to major in. The nonprofit charter includes six full-time academic departments, with overarching focuses for each:
- Entrepreneurial Business
- Science and Kinesiology
- Sports Journalism
- Computer Science
"What we like to say is 'We're turning their passion into opportunity,'" he said.
Monroe and the leadership board have taken an even bigger step to create opportunity by extending help to the families of enrolled students. Those who are underserved will have a resource in the school for shelter, clothing, transportation, and medical assistance.
"We're trying to provide an atmosphere of stability. Families are as important as the kids," he said.
The Earl Monroe New Renaissance Basketball School is a testimony to how a basketball family can enrich and motivate a plethora of communities. With help from its founding trustee David Stern to support from current commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA Foundation as a leading donor and broadcaster Marv Albert as an advisor, the list of acknowledgments from Monroe remained nearly endless.
"Our motto, it came from a statement from David Stern: 'A ball and a book can change the world', and that's what we're hoping to do," Monroe said.