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New mentorship program challenges young Black men to H.O.P.E.

28th November 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Kaelin Maloid
Contributing Writer

A music mogul and an NBA coach have set out to change the lives of 20 young men aged 12 to 15 to help them overcome circumstances and obstacles, and to further their education, so that they can one day change the world. This is the mission of a new program called Team H.O.P.E., conceived by New Orleans rapper Percy ‘Master P’ Miller and New Orleans Pelicans’ assistant coach Robert Pack.

Pelicans’ head coach Alvin Gentry also participated in the launch of the Team H.O.P.E. program, which stands for “Helping Our Players Excel.” The mentorship program kicked off on Nov. 18, 2016 with a life skills seminar before the Pelicans versus the Portland Trailblazers game. Four area schools selected the first group of participants after Master P and Pack proposed the project to them.

Master P spends time with mentees of hiss Team H.O.P.E program set up to prepare young  Black men to go to college and impact their community.

Master P spends time with mentees of hiss Team H.O.P.E program set up to prepare young
Black men to go to college and impact their community.

“Team H.O.P.E is about helping players excel,” Master P said. “And sometimes we have to give them tough love, it’s just how life goes.”

The mentors mixed some fun and some “real-talk” with the young men selected for the program engaging them in a “quiz” on the fundamentals of the game, and then joking around with their mentees for a mannequin challenge. Afterward, the participants watched the game inside the Smoothie King Arena. Blending advice and some wise words, the three community figures said they hoped the project would mentor at-risk young men in the city, improving their outcomes.

“No crutches, no excuses,” Gentry told the students. “When one door closes, another door opens, but you have to find that open door.”

The program was something Master P said he had “on his heart for a very long time.” After growing up with nothing, Master P said he wanted to find a way to give back to the community. He said he liked giving back, and he very much wanted to give back in this way. So he teamed up with Pack, another New Orleans native, to make the program a reality.

Master P and Pack said they were trying to find ways to help open the doors for the young men they’re targeting. The mission of Team H.O.P.E., they said, is to provide these students with the resources and tools they need to succeed in high school and beyond. After completing the program, students will be prepared for college to become leaders in their communities.

Both Master P and Pack said they look back at their own careers as inspiration for the program. They had met each other prior to the H.O.P.E project when they played on the same local Amateur Athletic Union basketball team called The Spartans. Both have also had success in their respective fields—Master P in music, and Pack in basketball.

Along the way, they said they learned to consider what else they could do in their careers. Master P, the No Limit Records label founder, did not just focus on music, but put his energy into philanthropy and entrepreneurship, and also became an author and actor, after a stint as a former basketball player. As the founder and chief executive officer of P. Miller Enterprises, he oversees a cable television network channel called “Better Black Television.” In 2013, Master P was the first hip-hop artist to be inducted to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Pack, on the other hand, is a retired National Basketball Association player who has served as an assistant coach for the former New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and currently an assistant coach for the Pelicans. In college, he played for Tyler Junior College, and then at the University of Southern California. In 1991, he went undrafted, but signed as a free agent for the Portland Trailblazers. Throughout his career, he bounced between eleven teams, two of which were overseas. During the 1990’s, Pack was known as one of the NBA’s better dunkers and finished second in the 1994 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest.

Even with the success both have had in their fields, both Master P and Pack stressed the program wasn’t about sports or music, but something even better—education.

“We don’t know what you’re interested in,” Pack said, “that’s why we’ve been exposing you to so many different things. Whether it’s education, or trades, whatever it is, you can be successful in it.”

It is a cornerstone for their program, Pack said, to expose the young men to different options. Pack said he wanted the Team H.O.P.E. participants to put their drive, competitive spirit, energy and determination against challenges to end up successful.

The next phase of the program is to get a facility. Master P said they are currently looking at places to have a safe haven for the program. However, that’s a short-term goal, he said, and he and Pack have bigger ideas for the future of Team H.O.P.E.

“I want to have thousands of kids come through this program and be successful,” Master P said.

He wants people to know the brand of Team H.O.P.E., and to know what the students have been through and to see the hurdles the young participants have overcome. Master P reminded the participants that he and Pack had been through the same things they had growing up in the city, and their success was because of the “right’ decisions they made.

“I really want this to be home first, and then I want this to touch kids all over,” Master P said of beginning the project in New Orleans.

“The NBA cares, and so do we,” Master P told the young men.

This article originally published in the November 28, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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