GLIDE — Glide middle school and high school students got a lesson in basketball and life Monday afternoon.
The Harlem Ambassadors, which is not affiliated with the Harlem Globetrotters, is a group of nine former college and some pro basketball players that travel around the country nine months out of the year, promoting the values of education, staying off drugs, fostering racial harmony and combating bullying. The Ambassadors are in their 20th year of emphasizing these values to teenagers.
Monday, they delivered their message in two separate shows at Glide High School, one for high school students and the second for the middle schoolers. They engage, not only the students, but also the teachers and administrators in some fun events, to help reach the students and get their messages out.
Brittany Dorsey played college basketball at Providence University in Rhode Island and played overseas before becoming the coach of the Ambassadors four years ago. She is the only female on the roster.
“What makes us different is we do hundreds of assemblies and go talk to kids about bullying and about focusing on education, and we put on comedy-show basketball events as well,” said Dorsey.
Kristina Haug, the principal for both Glide middle school and high school, did some fancy dancing with the players. Haug said she felt the Ambassadors’ message resonated with the students.
“I think it was a solid message in that students are faced with a lot of different circumstances at school, so for them to hear from people that have walked in their shoes and to hear this positive message, I definitely think it’s a message that resonates with them and they have an opportunity to take that back and apply it in life,” Haug said.
One of the events involved several students, who had to take off their shoes at one end of the gym. Then the shoes were stacked in a pile at the opposite end of the gym. The students had to run part way to the shoes, do some exercises, then run to the shoes, which had been scattered by the time they got there. They had to find their shoes, put them on, grab a basketball and dribble to the other end and make a basket. And even though it took several shots for the last one to make the basket, the message was “Don’t ever give up.” And they were all given a prize for finishing.
One of the members of the team, Yoshi Belizaire, from Miramar, Florida, is a University of Maine graduate and is known as “Dunker.”
“I really like the work that we do, we play some basketball, but we also do the motivational speaking part, so I really enjoy talking to the kids and being a positive role model in their lives,” said Belizaire. “When I have someone hit me up on Instagram and tell me I’ve really changed their aspects on life, I love that. That’s the best part of my job.”
Dorsey likes being able to come into the small communities and connecting with young kids.
“If we can reach one kid, that’s what matters,” she said. “We’ve had kids who talked about committing suicide and we’ve saved lives that way by having an assembly at a time when a kid was going through something. We just want to get more people to understand it means something when we’re talking to these kids, they listen.”
The team speaks to the younger age groups from kindergarten through eighth grade. Aside from the assemblies that focus on staying in school, staying off drugs and don’t be a bully, Harlem Ambassadors perform skills clinics and family fun nights. They do more than 150 assemblies each year, and 220 fund-raising games and entertainment events for nonprofit organizations and the U.S. Military.
School officials who would like to book the team can go to the Ambassador website for more information on how to reserve a date for any of its activities at www.harlemambassadors.com.