SBJ/May 30-June 5, 2016/Sports in Society

School offers youths sports business exposure

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A photo shoot at Madison Square Garden for a new apparel line, a meeting at Morgan Stanley, a rehearsal for a long-awaited business presentation.

These could be items pulled from a C-level executive’s to-do list, but they’re actually afternoon activities for several upperclassmen at New York City’s Business of Sports School on a Wednesday in May. For students mostly considered in poverty by the Department of Education, they represent previously unimaginable opportunities.

Located on the fifth floor of a shared school building in Hell’s Kitchen, BOSS is a 435-student public high school in its seventh year within the city’s Career and Technical Education program, which combines traditional academics — math, English, history, foreign language, science, etc. — with business-intensive
Principal Joshua Solomon brought NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, players LeBron James and Stephen Curry and other executives (top) to the school during All-Star Week.
Photos by: BUSINESS OF SPORTS SCHOOL (2)
coursework, practice and mentorship.

While the curriculum is designed to equip students with fundamentals applicable to business in any industry, BOSS uses sports as a lens into the professional world. Its advisory board is a who’s who of high-profile executives from places like the NFL, NBA, ESPN, Roc Nation and CBS Sports, all of whom volunteer their time to mentor students and tap into their networks to bring in additional mentors and set up student programming.

“This is an example of using the strength of sports for good, and the sports community in New York has really embraced it,” said Steve Horowitz, Inner Circle Sports partner and an advisory board co-chair who will be honored alongside Len Elmore at the school’s annual fundraiser Thursday at the New York Athletic Club.

In the most star-studded instance, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stopped by during last year’s All-Star Weekend with LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But even on a weekly basis, executives from across the sports landscape are sharing their experience with the students.

“One of my beliefs is to be successful in business and in your career, it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know,” said BOSS principal Joshua Solomon, a graduate of Harvard Business School who began his career as an associate at Chase Manhattan Bank. “The students here don’t have the backgrounds where they know anyone in the professional world. So you have to give them mentors, you have to give them chances to interact with these big companies.”

“One of my beliefs is to be successful in business and in your career, it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know. The students here don’t have the backgrounds where they know anyone in the professional world. So you have to give them mentors, you have to give them chances to interact with these big companies.

JOSHUA SOLOMON,
Principal, Business of Sports School

Morgan Stanley has taken a particularly hands-on role, starting a mentorship program through an outside agency called PENCIL in which BOSS juniors and seniors visit the company’s nearby office for seven two-hour sessions a year. The focus is on career readiness skills, from public speaking and interviewing to SAT prep and financial aid for college.

Stephen D’Antonio, who retired three months ago from his role as a managing director at Morgan Stanley, said the results of the program, which he described as rigorous and work-oriented, are almost immediately evident.

“The feedback we got is that all of a sudden in the classroom these kids are changed dramatically,” he said. “They’ve found their voice, hands are up, they’re participating. … We’ve gotten feedback that the kids have found really cool jobs and they use the skills that we gave them. People have changed their minds about what they want to do in their careers.”

Students are in regular communication with their mentors, D’Antonio added, and even in retirement he still keeps in touch with his two proteges.

Schoolhouse Roc

Kaberue Moore, an African-American student from a single-parent home, wasn’t satisfied with the underperforming high school he was assigned to attend in the fall of 2012. He applied to other schools but was turned down each time and, as a result, was forced to begin ninth grade in his middle school building.

Kaberue Moore and Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson at BOSS
Photo by: STEVE HOROWITZ
“Coming here opened my eyes and opened doors to the many different ways I can go,” Moore, 17, said of BOSS. “That professional NBA career isn’t calling my name anymore, but those people who are in the sports field — not on the field or on the court — are very impactful by doing the things that keep the show running, and that’s something I know I can do now.”

One of Moore’s most impactful experiences at BOSS came last month when four agents from Roc Nation Sports visited the school to speak with the students. Among them was senior management executive Shawn “Pecas” Costner, who worked at Def Jam Records for 18 years. To Moore, a hip-hop aficionado, Pecas was a legend.

“He was so surprised that I knew his story on how he made it in the rap business,” Moore said. “He said, ‘You know I can talk to somebody here for you if you want to do an internship.’ I told him, ‘Please do.’”

Moore, who will attend St. John’s in the fall to study business management, has since visited Roc Nation’s office to shadow an executive, during which he conducted research for an initiative by Kevin Durant’s foundation.

Solomon, the BOSS principal, noted that the emphasis on sports is particularly attractive to African-American men such as Moore, who are statistically most susceptible to dropping out of school. But in a public school system where the dropout rate is high across the board, BOSS’s unique ability to pique the interest of students from all different backgrounds is grabbing attention.

“At first the initial reaction was like, ‘Do you really need to specialize that early in sports business?’” Solomon said. “But when they see that more students are staying in school, that you’re giving an opportunity to students who wouldn’t have a chance to meet these people during their regular lives, and that this is a way to help them be successful in college, it has a real appeal.”

Alex Silverman writes for sister publication SportsBusiness Daily.

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