This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2021 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Richard Ghohestani, WH’ 24
Living in Philadelphia my whole life, I grew up playing basketball, which helped me stay away from all the deleterious things going on in my neighborhood. Looking back at my childhood, I am so grateful for all the coaches who had an influence on my love for the game; the same love that created my desire to coach. In May 2020, I created my own Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team, Ghost Elite, with hopes of helping the local youth.
Initially, it was hard to manage. It was difficult being an 18 year old attempting to make ends meet for these kids, who most could literally not afford to play anywhere else. After all, AAU is expensive. There are tournament fees, uniforms, renting gyms, transportation, team insurance, among many other expenses. It was harrowing trying to focus on the players while constantly searching for a way to acquire enough money to keep going.
Thanks to the benevolent donors and Career Services, from June to August 2021, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to dedicate my entire summer expanding Ghost Elite, without worrying about any externalities. As a program, we made incredible strides this summer. I set three main goals going into the summer: keeping these kids out of trouble, urging them to practice good habits, and getting them into college.
My first priority was to keep these kids out of trouble. The homicide rates in Philadelphia only get worse by the year, and summer-time is when they really spike. My mission was to create an environment where they could have fun and enjoy their summer, but also optimally reach their goals within the sport. It wasn’t easy, but would you believe me if I told you that I had 36 kids coming to practice 5 days a week, at 6:30am in the summer?
That’s right, 36 players! The funding allowed me to proliferate the program the way that I wanted to– different age groups, more players, and all at different skill levels. I ended up with three separate teams: an 11th-12th grade team, a 10th grade team, and a 9th grade development team (compared to one team of 15 players in 2020).
Another goal I had was to guide these young men to practice good habits.
I was pushing to develop good habits that would carry into the school year, and beyond. They would be held accountable for waking up for 6:30am practice, pushing themselves even when they were tired, and learning how to communicate with their teammates efficiently.
The final goal was to give my players an opportunity to pursue an education– to play basketball at the next level. My favorite moment of this summer was when a college coach began talking to one of my players, offering him a scholarship. This to me was the cherry on top. This opportunity was not only a life changer for him, but also gave everyone else hope. Both his teammates, and the younger players witnessed how hard work and dedication is rewarded.
Thanks to the donors, I had enough time to dive deeper into the business aspects of the program as well, and improve the team’s social media, along with increasing google insights (going from 300 to 1000 instagram followers in less than three months). Our instagram, website, and YouTube, are filled with special moments that only became possible thanks to Career Services & the unbelievable donors.
All in all, I could not have dreamed a better summer. I spent nearly every day of the summer surrounded by the youth, and got to be a part of their growth. I can confidently say that without the funding, there is no way so many lives could have been impacted in such a positive way.