Whether it was a legendary mayor of 20 years or a movie star holding a memorable teddy bear, hundreds came out to support the Boston Scholar Athletes program in its second annual fundraising gala Tuesday night at the Agganis Arena.
“After Mayor [Thomas Menino] and after [Suffolk Construction CEO and Chairman] John [Fish], it doesn’t make sense for me to speak much more anyway," “Ted” star Mark Wahlberg said to the crowd at center court. "I just want to thank you guys for inspiring me and instilling that Boston pride in me. I want to thank everybody who’s been a supporter of the BSA for such a long time.”
Wahlberg is currently pursuing his high school diploma from Snowden International through online classes. However, the Boston native – who will turn 42-years-old this June – didn’t have the resources in high school that BPS schools have now.
This is in large part a credit to the BSA, which raised more than $1.7 million to help city athletic teams and student-athletes on Tuesday night. The program, created by Menino and Fish, has provided uniforms for more than 157 teams and skill clinics, all-star games and banquets for 13 sports.
However, according to BSA Executive Director Rebekah Splaine, the real improvement is being shown in the classroom.
“We really know it’s about achieving in the classroom so these young people, they all also get tutored by local college students, they receive free SAT training and their SAT test scores have risen by close to 200 points,” Splaine said during the event. “They’re also graduating from high school at a 20 percent higher rate than other students in their school.”
Madison Park senior Amber Edwards exemplifies those results. The scholar-athlete, who currently holds a 3.9 GPA, was at a loss for words when trying to tell the audience how the BSA has affected her life.
“I’m like speechless right now, I don’t know what to say. It’s just so amazing," she said. "I definitely want to say that with the BSA on my side, I have a full scholarship. I’m going to the [Community College of Rhode Island]."
Witnessing the large crowd of positively effected students, like Edwards, ecstatically sporting the BSA colors, left a wheel-chair bound Menino a proud man.
“Kids are fighting to get in, to improve their education standards." Menino said. "That’s something different in Boston that we haven’t had in the past because of the excitement this program brings, the opportunity it brings for these young people and the future it brings for them also."
Fish, who addressed the crowd on multiple occasions, also took the opportunity to commend the community on staying connected even through the tragic marathon bombings the city endured.
“We are a community that helps each other and gives back to those who need it most even during the most difficult times and that spirit of compassion and positive energy permeates through this arena tonight,” Fish said.
It was clear that through all the festivities, the main goal of the night was spreading awareness of how hard the scholar-athletes have worked and how much they’ve academically improved as a result of the BSA.
“Many of us have had the opportunity to fulfill our dreams,” Fish said. “Let us give these future leaders their opportunities to win on the fields, to win in the classroom and to win in life because every individual is entitled to their dream.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KannoYoungs.
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.