The recent success of the Lions and the Tigers has given sports fans in Detroit a lot to celebrate. But the city is still beset by severe problems. For example, only 31 percent of Detroit area high school students graduate in four years, and just 12 percent of adults in the city have earned a college degree.
Former NBA star and Detroit native Jalen Rose wanted to do something about his city’s educational deficits. He recently opened the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school (grades 9-12) whose mission is “to provide a leadership-focused experience within a high-performing high school that engages and inspires Detroit area youth to achieve at the rigorous level necessary to ultimately graduate with a college degree and thrive in life.”
STACK sat down with Rose to learn more about the problems facing Detroit’s young people and how his Leadership Academy plans to address them. (Read part one of the interview.)
STACK: What are some of the ways JRLA will help students succeed?
JR: Number one, we’re a public charter school, tuition-free. And our students were chosen via lottery. We didn’t hand-select the best eighth grade test scores and try to navigate those students to our school. These students need social attention as well as academic attention, because a lot of them are coming from broken homes and a situation where it’s a single-parent home.
So, to actually get the parents to buy into the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, that was the biggest step. Because it’s going to be tougher. We start school at 8 a.m. School isn’t over until 4:30 p.m. Their friends are getting out of school at 2:30, 3 p.m. There’s also mandatory tutoring from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The average Detroit public school holds classes for 176 days a year, but at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, our students will go 211 days, including six Saturdays. It’s mandatory, just like Monday morning at 8 a.m.; 111 of our 120 students showed up for our first Super Saturday (and five of our kids who didn’t make it were at playoff games for football). You have to establish a work ethic.
We try to keep a 20:1 ratio of students to teachers all day; and a 10:1 ratio in English and in math. So no one can hide. Families can’t hide, students can’t hide, teachers can’t hide. We’re really creating an environment for learning.
STACK: You were heavily recruited out of high school. What advice would you give to talented student-athletes today?
JR: It’s like a whirlwind for these young men and women out there. Between social media, agents, runners, the college recruiting process … [plus] the divide that money has caused between what someone has deemed a student-athlete being recruited and a billion-dollar business. All of those lines have been blurred.
So for a high school student, not only are you still a high school kid, but you have to deal with so many people pulling at your coat, trying to navigate your life and make your decisions for you; and some of them don’t have your best interests at heart. That could be family member, that could be a friend—because that’s what recruiters do. They get next to someone who’s near you, along with getting in your ear, along with the hope that they’ll be able to navigate you to come to their school. It’s almost impossible to navigate and not really be exposed.
Source: Jalen Rose;