Saturday, December 22, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Steven Hunter throws a jump ball during his Life Skills and Basketball Academy, held Saturday and Sunday at Thurgood Marshall school in Bellwood. | Shanel Romain
Proviso East graduate and former NBA player Steven Hunter is in Proviso Township this weekend to facilitate his Life Skills and Basketball Academy — the first one he’s ever hosted in the area where he grew up. The camp was held at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, 2501 Oak St. in Bellwood.
“I’ve been running basketball camps through the Academy for about six years now,” Hunter said. “It’s a program I started in Arizona and I’m looking to really branch out here in my hometown of Bellwood and Maywood, Districts 88 and 89, and service the kids here in my own community who come from where I came from.”
Hunter was a basketball standout at Proviso East before graduating and playing two years at DePaul University. He declared himself eligible for the NBA draft in 2001, when he was picked 15th overall.
Hunter played for five teams, including the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns, before retiring. He’s currently a team ambassador for the Suns.
Hunter said that around 120 young people registered for his camp, which is open to students in grades 3rd through 8th and cost just $25 per person. The day-long camp hosted 3rd- through 5th-graders on Saturday. On Sunday, the camp will host 6th- through 8th-graders.
Hunter’s basketball academy was the first one he’s held in Proviso Township. | Shanel Romain
Hunter is hosting his camp just several months after teaming up with Woz U Education, a technology literacy organization inspired by Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, to implement a $5 million technology-based after school program in K-12 schools throughout the Chicago area.
Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview District 89 was the first district where the program launched. The program has since expanded to Bellwood District 88, said Victoria Hansen, D88’s curriculum director.
“Not only did we want to offer kids the [opportunity to learn Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math instruction], but we also wanted to utilize his skills to offer them athletic instruction, as well,” Hansen said.
The technology literacy program, which is administered through the Steven Hunter Youth Foundation, provides STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) kits to students participating in school districts’ K-8 after school programs.
Hunter said that around 120 young people registered for this year’s camp. | Shanel Romain
“The collaboration empowers students to acquire coding and software development skills,” according to a statement Woz U released on Aug. 22, to announce the effort.
On Saturday, Hunter said that he recognized that education was “leaning more toward technology” and wanted to offer young people an option other than sports.
“When I was growing up, for a lot of my peers, it was either basketball (going to the NBA) or nothing,” Hunter said. ” By this program offering students the ability to earn a certificate in [STEAM] before they leave high school, they’ll be able to get a job and be successful in an area outside of sports.”
Hunter added that by merging his basketball camp with life skills, he hopes to help hone local young people’s decision-making capacity.
Hunter’s camp was open to both boys and girls, grades 3rd through 8th. | Shanel Romain
“I want to help them create good habits that can service them throughout their lives,” he said. “Life skills and basketball go hand-in-hand. We have so many great athletes who don’t reach their potential, because they’re not grounded or weren’t prepared in the classroom.”
And while Hunter may be giving back his time and passion to young people in the place he calls home, he’s also getting a pretty nice gift in return, he said.
“A lot of my high school teammates are here helping me coach,” he said. “Being back in my own community is an amazing feeling. It’s one thing to help kids in Phoenix, but it’s even more special helping kids in my own backyard.” VFP
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