Jalen Rose working hard to give Detroit kids a quality education

Former NBA player, member of Michigan's Fab Five committed to helping Detroit students succeed in college

DETROIT - Jalen Rose admits it's not easy to open and operate a charter school but he is committed to doing it in Detroit.

Rose, a former NBA player, member of the Fab Five at the University of Michigan and current ESPN and ABC analyst spends a lot of his time focused on his public charter school, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in northwest Detroit.

Local 4's Rhonda Walker recently interviewed him about the school and why he wanted to open it.

"That's the best way I feel like it is to give back to our young men and women. I always felt like the eight most important years of somebody's growth is the four that they should be in high school and the 4 that they should be in college," said Jalen Rose. "You ask any adult where their dreams went awry, a lot of times it happens during the eight year period when they start driving start trying to figure out whether you are a leader or a follower. You start being exposed to sex, drugs, violence, gangs and all of a sudden you start making poor decisions and or great decisions that influence your future."

Rose opened the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in 2011. This year it has about 200 9th and 10th grade students. Rose plans to expand another grade level each year.

The motto of the school is "Enter a learner. Exit a leader." The kids see that message as soon as they walk into the school.

"It's really about choices and while we want you to be very well versed and educated also you got to be able to handle yourself out here and in real life situations," said Rose.

Rose wants his school to be a safe learning environment and keeps it small with a 20 to one student teacher ratio. The school offers real world and project based experiences and leadership training.

"We are asking for a longer school day 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.," said Rose. "A longer school year, 211 days, in order for our young men and women to compete in the global economy that is what it is going take."

JRLA, as it is often called, is a public charter high school.

It is partially funded by Michigan Future Schools and has committed to having 85 percent of its students graduate high school, 85 percent to go onto college and 85 percent to earn a college degree.

That can be a high expectation, especially when some students enter JRLA behind their grade level in reading and math. Rose keeps it in perspective.

"If you get a 9th grader that is reading at a 4th grade level and that young man or that young woman grows up to be functioning member of society with a job with a family and creates a positive outcome as opposed to become a carjacker or a killer or a drug dealer," said Rose. "Of course we want Rhodes Scholars, of course we want people to go on to be graduates and be great ambassadors of the city of Detroit, but more importantly this is about building back up the city."

It is too soon to measure the success of Rose's charter school.

Michigan Future Schools, which creates small high schools in Detroit to help prepare students to quality and succeed in college, issued this statement about the school.

"Michigan Future is proud to have been one of the first investors in the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. We made a four year $800,000 grant to the school. Like most start-up schools, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy has faced daunting challenges but Jalen's commitment to the school has been consistent and unwavering. The kids at JRLA know they have a school founder who is fully committed to their success in high school and beyond. We at Michigan Future Schools are committed to working with Jalen and his team to create a great school."

JRLA was issued its contract to operate under The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University.

"Jalen Rose Leadership Academy is one of the newest schools in our portfolio and we are working closely with the Board of Directors to address common issues with new school start-ups, which include the academic, operational and financial challenges of providing a quality educational experience for their students. We recognize that developing successful urban high schools is one of the most difficult challenges in K-12 public education today. CMU values our partnership with the JRLA board as they strive to provide educational options for students in Detroit and to prepare them academically for success in college, work and life," said Cindy Schumacher, Executive Director for The Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools at CMU.

A real challenge for Rose is raising the money necessary to provide the education he wants these children to get.

"The money we get for the state keeps on the lights and pays our teachers, everything else wee have to find ways to raise funds," said Rose.

As part of his fundraising efforts, Jalen Rose has also issued The Detroit Challenge to area businesses. He is looking for 15 companies or individuals in metro Detroit to partner with JRLA by making a $10,000 donation to help the school create educational opportunities Rose envisions for the school. Happy's Pizza and Lady Janes Haircuts for Men have already made that commitment. For details click here.
Rose graduated from southwestern high school, and continued on to the University of Michigan where he was one of the five freshman basketball players known as the Fab Five. He spent 13 years in the NBA and is now an ESPN and ABC analyst.

Prior to opening JRLA, Rose created the Jalen Rose Foundation, creating opportunities for underserved youth including in his hometown. Those opportunities include college scholarships.

"The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy is not just my name on the building. It's blood sweat and tears. It takes a lot of time and energy manpower and money and so many people working on this project that are getting below what they normally getting paid that are working on this project pro bono, that have really dedicated themselves to help me see this vision through," said Rose.

Students who attend JRLA love the school and the motto "Enter a Learner. Exit a Leader."

"They want you to come to school focused, ready and leaving, taking what you learn here out into your communities," said Aubrey Williams.

"We literally get personal help, one on one interaction with teachers," said Unique Bailey.

Rose's vision is to offer his students a private school quality education without ever charging students for it.

"We have had some success and we will be that (Detroit) 'Country Day' (School) of the inner city soon," said Rose.

The school is currently taking applications for new students. For more information, click here.

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