What Two Middle Schoolers Learned about Hard Work from NBA All-Stars

NBA All Star Jr. Journalism Program

By Derrick Thomas and Da’Juan Anderson of Medard H. Nelson Charter School
Mentored by Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report
Photos by Stephanie Mayer, St. Mary’s Dominican High School

Far from the shiny hardwood floors and climate controlled conditions of an NBA arena, D’Angelo Russell was digging up mulch in a cold drizzle at William Hart Elementary School, west of New Orleans.

We witnessed this as student journalists through JR NOLA – a junior journalist program. We covered the 10th NBA Cares All-Star Day of Service on Friday, February 17, and we saw Russell of the L.A. Lakers shovel a mulch pile that was a tall as him for a new KaBOOM! playground. More than two dozen athletes and coaches joined about 500 collective volunteers to install a new jungle gym, basketball court and swing set.

We worked alongside a journalist mentor who gave us the ins and outs of how to report on a major event. Sure we got excited while seeing our favorite stars (we really saw Steph Curry and KD up close!). And we learned how news gets produced. But most importantly, we learned the value of hard work.

“Hard work not only helps you; it helps your family,” said Russell. The benefits of hard work were echoed by many players throughout the day.

NBA All Star Jr. Journalism Program

Russell’s teammate Brandon Ingram agrees, “It creates opportunities not only in basketball, not only for school work but for everything.”

We learned from these athletes that you have not only have to be dedicated, you have to show dedication so others can reap the benefits. When you work hard everyone around grows.

The basketball players’ presence at school on a rainy day shows that hard work must be displayed in everyday life, not just on a basketball court. The players didn’t have to volunteer their time. Some of them probably didn’t want to. But there Steph Curry was on his knees painting a map of the United States. Sure they were taller than most, but they looked just like regular people up close. I learned that humility and hard work go hand in hand. The players are not bigger than life.

Steph didn’t work hard for himself. He aimed his efforts to give someone an opportunity to be the next great athlete, or scientist, or writer.

You get things done when you work together. The mulch pile that was as tall as Russell, slowly but surely became shorter than his high tops. No one person could have moved that pile within the five hours we spent there.

Can you imagine the students of William Hart coming back to see a completely new playground that was built with Steph Curry’s hands?

We saw a community work hard to improve the lives of kids like us.  “There’s never enough people to do the work that needs to be done, but we try to do our share,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

Many people point to problems about New Orleans. Violence, crime, poverty are certainly issues that must be addressed. We may not have all of the solutions, but we know that part of it includes hard work.