Booker T. Washington Girls Basketball/Track Teams Educational/Cultural Experience exposes 60-70 low-income, African-American teenage girls to the many opportunities available within and outside of their community. The goal of the program is to motivate students using athletics as a tool for achieving their goals. The main objectives include increasing the number of student athletes who successfully graduate from high school, improving ACT scores four to six points, and increasing the number of students who attend postsecondary institutions.
Below is a letter from Coach Derek W. Hunter reporting on a basketball trip to New Orleans that exposed the student to much more than just athletic success.
Just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate the support of The Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. Our trip to New Orleans was wonderful! On our way to New Orleans, we found out that one of our former student-athletes (Daria Hester) was playing against the University of New Orleans women’s basketball team. Daria is a senior Pre-med/Biology major at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. She will be graduating in May and entering med school! Another former Lady Warrior student-athlete who is now one of our volunteer coaches, contacted her former coach at UNO to see if we could get tickets to the Jackson St. – University of New Orleans women’s basketball game. Modern technology is wonderful! We took a picture of our roster and emailed the coach at UNO. Ten minutes into the game we were sitting in the bleachers. We tried not to be too obvious to the UNO players that we were cheering for Daria!
Our accommodations while in New Orleans were at The Roosevelt Hotel on Baronne Street. The director of the tournament has a daughter who works at The Roosevelt. She booked us discounted rooms at her luxury hotel. You should have seen their Christmas decorations!
Our first game in the tournament was against Louisiana’s number one ranked small schools team. They were undefeated when we played them. Although we played them tough, they remained undefeated after our game. The rest of the tournament was a different story. We won our next three games and were the consolation bracket champions!
On Tuesday we visited St. Mary’s Academy for a short work-out. St. Mary’s is a Catholic private school that was founded by African-American nuns. Once a thriving, well attended school, St. Mary’s enrollment has dropped considerably after Hurricane Katrina. Our kids were glad they didn’t have to wear those plaid skirts and black and white oxford shoes!
We celebrated our victory against Landry high school with a buffet dinner at Golden Corral. The people at Golden Corral treated us like celebrities. Many of the customers there wanted to know who we were, and where we were from. The kids were very well behaved and very full!!!
On Wednesday we had breakfast at a place called The Trolley Stop. I have been to New Orleans quite a bit and never knew about this place. Michelle said she ate there when she lived in New Orleans. It was a nice small quaint restaurant. The food and service was outstanding and the prices were very reasonable. From there we went to the Lakeside Mall in Kenner. One of our chaperones started a tradition of drawing names to exchange gifts while on our trip. Our kids have been given many blessings; during this activity they are taught the gift of giving. After leaving the mall, it was time for us to prepare for our 3rd game against West Jefferson. They were big! They boasted one of Louisiana’s top college recruits, a young lady who was 6’3”! Our kids did a great job on her and we beat them in a close game 38-36. Did I mention that we beat Landry by almost 30 the night before?!
Thursday was a busy day. After a quick breakfast at McDonald’s, we visited historically black universities, Dillard and Xavier. Several of the kids showed great interest in those schools. After visiting the colleges, we headed to the Riverwalk. I rushed the kids on to the ferry boat and pointed out the bridge that Denzel Washington filmed the movie, Déjà Vu. They were shocked when the ferry boat started moving! When we got back from the ferry boat ride, we took pictures in the area from another Denzel movie, The Pelican Brief. One of our students shared a desire to be a marine biologist. I had budgeted enough for us to visit the New Orleans Aquarium even at almost $16.00 a person. When I got to the window to pay for our group, out of curiosity, I asked the ticket lady if they had any discounts. She gave me a number and a form to fill out. I was given a reservation number from the person on the phone; our total went from over $300.00 to $81.00!! After our visit to the aquarium, we rushed back to the hotel and got ready for our 4th and final game against Xavier Prep. Xavier put up a good fight, but the Lady Warriors went on to win their 3rd game of the tournament and the consolation bracket championship. After the game we drove across the river to Gretna, Louisiana in search of Ryan’s Buffet. Ryan’s wasn’t Golden Corral but they were close! We figured if the kids got full, they’d go straight to bed when we got back to the hotel. Wrong!!!! We had done all we wanted to do in New Orleans so we decided to leave a couple of hours earlier the next morning. When the kids woke up we were in Jackson, Mississippi. After breakfast at Cracker Barrel it was off to Memphis!
When we got to the Batesville exit, we had the kids start calling their rides. When the bus pulled in front of the BTW gym, all the parents were there. I guess they missed their babies!
In terms of basketball, this was probably our most successful trip ever. The experiences outside of basketball were things the kids will never forget. Some of the basketball players who also run track have already begun talking about returning to New Orleans for the AllState Sugar Bowl Track & Field Meet. Last year we had 30 young ladies participate in the Sugar Bowl Track Meet. Over 1200 athletes from across the country participate in this very competitive meet. We will continue our college tours and visits to the historical venues of one of our country’s greatest cities. We also plan to visit areas of New Orleans that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Once again we would like to thank you for your continued support.
Sincerely,Coach Derek W. HunterBooker T. Washington H.S.
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