Justin A. Rice for Boston.com
The first-ever Boston Scholar Athlete Zone Party was held on the floor of the TD Garden Tuesday night. The gala benefited the two-year-old program that has established learning centers for athletes at each of Boston’s 19 public high schools.
“The Boston Scholar athlete program believes there is a link, a proven link, between athletics and academic achievement,” said BSA founder and Suffolk Construction CEO and chairman John Fish.
Fish and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino collaborated to create the BSA after the Globe ran a seven-part series on the sad state of the district's athletic program called Failing our athletes.
“The mayor called me about two and a half years ago and said, ‘John we have some challenges with the Boston Public Schools athletic program, I think we can make a difference by putting some additional resources and putting some advice and guidance into it,’” Fish said. “That’s all our team needed to hear was [that we had] an opportunity to work with Boston Public Schools and [Superintendent] Carol Johnson.
“As a result of that phone call we are sitting here tonight and we’re impacting over 4,000 high school athletes in the city of Boston.”
The program — which also provides uniforms for more than 157 teams, skill clinics, all-star games and banquets for 13 sports — has kept 92 percent of its participants eligible to play their sports and has increased SAT scores by an average of 150 points, according to Menino.
“We know it’s working, so let’s come together to reach even more of the young people in our city,” Menino said.
Menino said while Fish defers credit he actually deserves most of it.
“I can remember the day he came to my office after it was reported [in the Globe] about the athletic programs in the Boston Public Schools, he came with the idea and he said ‘I’m going to make sure we have a program in Boston that works both scholastically and athletically for the young people in our city,’” Menino said during the event. “John worked at it, he put his resources behind it and built a great team.
“We wouldn’t be here without the foundation John set up, the Suffolk Red and Blue foundation. … enough can’t be said about this great program. This is a true public private program that is helping the Boston Public School students excel in the classroom, on the field and after graduation.”
West Roxbury High senior football and basketball player Muller Mirville said his GPA increased from a 2.0 to a 2.6 after attending the Zone.
“As of right now it’s getting higher and higher,” he said. “The Zone is a place where people that were in your footsteps help motivate you to become in a position that they are in, which is successful. The experience tonight went well; I see the people that are helping me out and are funding what’s helping me become a successful person.”
BSA Executive Director Rebekah Splaine Salwasser said some of the students in the program have increased their GPA from 1.0 to 4.0.
“And all have improved their chances of graduating from high school by 28 percent as members of our program,” she said. “Tonight we are here to honor the commitment that all these young people have made to improving their opportunities for success.
“All of us in this room contributed to that opportunity. We must continue to work together to provide structured, enriching, sustainable academic and athletic support for our youth."
She said the program is beginning to change the culture of athletics in the district.
“Together with our partners we are starting to see an increase in school and community pride and a renewed sense of confidence," she said, "particularly with our young female athletes.”
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our winter correspondents:
- Emily McCarthy | @EmilyMcCahthy | BPS correspondent
- Jake Fischer | @GlobeFischer | Boys basketball
- Michelle Fenelon | @michfenelon | Girls basketball
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Boys hockey
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls hockey
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