Roxbury Students Learn There’s More to Pro Basketball than Just the Game



    Boston-based commercial lender NewStar Financial and the law firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP have partnered with Citizen Schools’ expanded learning time program that teaches students at the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Mass. about the business of sports.

    The program is organized by Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit designed to help improve student achievement through expanded learning days and skill-building apprenticeship programs. Students are connected with local professionals who volunteer to teach one afternoon a week for ten weeks. The students at the Orchard Gardens School are learning to play a different game of basketball through a Citizens School initiative called “Managing the Celtics.” In the interactive apprenticeship, students learn about the business side of running a professional sports franchise, from signing players to contracts to pricing tickets and concession-stand items.

    From early October through December, volunteers Sucharita Varnasi and Matthew Frascella from Edwards Wildman and Annie Fisher and David Kilpatrick from NewStar work one afternoon each week. Along with Citizen Schools teacher Carlen Arima, the volunteers organize approximately 16 students into four groups, or management teams. Each team picks key players on a fixed budget, estimates seat prices, considers travel costs and learns how to market the team. Through a business simulation model, the students learn from their initial decisions by looking at their business results and their team’s performance. Students are given the opportunity to participate throughout the class, working on presentation and public speaking skills. At the end of the semester, on December 7, students will present their work to an audience of teachers, family, and friends at the Federal Reserve building in downtown Boston.

    “Citizen Schools has been providing apprenticeships to students across the country for many years,” said Tim Conway, CEO of NewStar. “This apprenticeship is fun and educational. Most of us love sports and, with this apprenticeship, we have found a way to teach important skills and concepts by applying them in a context outside of the traditional textbook.”

    “The Citizens Schools apprenticeship program exposes students to a side of sports they otherwise may never have encountered,” added George Ticknor, a partner at Edwards Wildman. “While many kids dream of becoming a star on the court, this program allows them to envision a successful career off the court.”

    Boston-based Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for low-income and disadvantaged children throughout the country, began working with Orchard Gardens in August 2010. The organization is a partner in the initiative to boost test scores and academic achievement as a part of the Boston’s school turnaround initiative.

    “Our work at Orchard Gardens has largely benefited from the outside-the-box thinking of volunteers like George, Tim, Sucharita, Matt, Annie and David,” said Pat Kirby, the Executive Director of Citizen Schools. “Without community involvement and positive role model support, the program would not be as effective as it is. Our success depends on the quality and dedication of our volunteers, and we are working with a great team.”


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