Beyond basketball: The Grizzlies Foundation's vision for the next generation

Diane Terrell, Executive Director of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, believes in urban transformation. And she knows the best way to shape a better future for Memphis is to shape a better future for our kids, which is the focus of all the Foundation's work. 
What is the mission of the Foundation and why?
Our mission at the Grizzlies Foundation reflects the broader goals of the community: we are dedicated to enabling the success of the next generation, to helping prepare students to thrive in college, career and life.
 
This is clearly a community-wide priority. Memphis is leading the rest of the country in many aspects of education reform designed to significantly increase the number of high school students graduating college and career ready.
 
The Foundation’s area of focus, where we think we can add the highest value to this effort, is to ensure that every young person has a network of adult mentors equipped to lend expertise, passion and empathy to creating those next generation success stories.   
 
What is mentoring?
That’s a great question and the subject of a lot of debate nationally. In the most literal sense, a mentor is a caring adult volunteer engaged in a sustained, one-on-one relationship with a child in need. And, mentors can serve a number of roles: advisor, confidante, accountability partner, for example.
 
But there are two currents compelling all of us in the field to think more expansively about the definition: first, there are more children ‘in need’ than there are adult volunteers willing to commit long term; and, second, the Opportunity Gap - the access to quality resources needed for children to be successful - is widening among this same group of at-risk kids.
 
What this means is that we need to be creative in order to serve more children and serve them with more intentionality.  But we also need more adults willing to invest in the future of our community by investing in our children.
 
How are mentors preparing Memphis' youth for success in the 21st century global economy?
A lot is written about the skills most valued in the new economy: critical thinking, problem solving, digital mastery, the ability to innovate and create. And schools are adjusting to integrate those outcomes into their curricula.
 
The Grizzlies Foundation funds in-school and after-school mentor programs that reinforce skill development. Our TEAM Mentor Program, the Digital Coding Camp, REACH Memphis are great examples of mentor programs that concentrate specifically on nurturing 21st century attributes.
 
In each case, adults work in concert and on behalf of students to empower achievement. But, what is so great is that these programs also allow adults, specifically young adults, to leverage their professional skills and passions to make a meaningful difference in the life of a young person.
 
We have so many talented young adults in Memphis; we are constantly looking for ways to put more of them in front of our children, modeling and mentoring positive behaviors.
 
What motivates you to do this work in Memphis?
We have the power to create the future we want to see, right? Each and every one of us. I’m motivated by the promise of real urban transformation in Memphis; that includes real estate redevelopment, small business resurgence, talent recruitment, of course; but, the clearest path to urban transformation is through our kids, changing what’s possible for them.
 
Children are our most important asset as a community. Mentoring to successful student outcomes is a form of City Building.
 
What is the Foundation’s connection to the Grizzlies?
The Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Grizzlies organization.  We are very fortunate to have a commitment to our mission from across the organization: our owners, players, and leadership team are all involved, providing financial and other support in an ongoing manner.

But, let’s face it, there is no better conversation starter with kids than, ‘we’re from the Grizzlies’ so, we truly are harnessing the power of sport to transform lives.
 

Read more articles by Lauren Turner.

Lauren Turner is a native Memphian and journalism graduate student at the University of Memphis. She is passionate about her city and the people who inhabit it. 
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