I joined the advisory board of the Business of Sports School with my mentor Steve Horowitz. The public high school in Hell's Kitchen was in it's 5th year and needed a branding uplift. With a push from a few advisors we rebuilt their website and uniforms. The hope was to give the students a blank state with which to build their own ideas and encourage others to join them in class.
It never occurred to me that missing a day of school was an option. School was where my future would be found, whether I was excited to be there or not. By no means was I eligible for a perfect attendance award, but going to class was a given. And it was the same for most of my friends.
Principal Josh Solomon will tell you that many of his students don't have that mindset. With many of black & brown students in New York City's public schools, their backgrounds and environments vary in ways that challenge the typical educators lesson plans. "Some times you have to watch your little brother for a couple of days when he's home sick," a student explained to me with little annoyance. That was his life.
So Principal Solomon's staff works overtime to introduce his students to new environments where showing up every day is a requirement. Tours of Roc Nation and Morgan Stanley are blended with a mentor for every student through the organization iMentor. Every opportunity to see how these worlds work is a chance to convince them why attending class every day is important. So we wanted to show them that they belonged. We wanted the students to see themselves in those settings.
One afternoon we gifted 12 brave volunteers with new uniforms and asked them model for their schools new look.
At Madison Square Garden.
While these students smiled and posed for Jon Lopez in the World's Most Famous Arena, we understood that their classmates could see themselves in their uniforms. They belonged. As long as they wore their uniform, they belonged.