Young people ranging from age seven through high school are teaming up to become part of something bigger than basketball. They're ready to take part in a sports tournament that raises scholarship money for students with college dreams.
The Third Annual Brandon Jackson Basketball Shoot Out is set for Saturday, June 22 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at John Muir High School in Pasadena.
Brandon Jackson died two years ago. He was gunned down on a street in Altadena on February 12, 2011. He had just turned 18. The crime remains unsolved. The First Presbyterian Church of Altadena formed "Stepping Into the Light Outreach" after Jackson's death. The organization believes education changes lives and can help stop violence in the Pasadena/Altadena community.
The church's outreach ministry led to the Brandon Jackson basketball tournament and scholarships in his name. $13, 500 in scholarships were awarded to six area young people who entered college during 2011 and 2012, according to the organization's website.
Brandon had an extraordinary ability to inspire fellow students and teammates, recalled Debra Williams, Director of the outreach program. Her husband, David, was Brandon's AAU Basketball coach. "He (Brandon) was so giving, encouraging, cheering you on to do better and to never give up," she added.
The 2013 scholarship applications are all in, and a committee is now reviewing them. "We evaluate the person's whole life experience, not just academics and extracurricular activities," said committee member Nina Lau-Branson. She described one applicant who had already overcome many obstacles in life, and displayed the skills and determination needed to succeed in college. Among other things, scholarship applicants had to write an essay, show financial need and get letters of recommendation from significant leaders in their lives.
There's still time to donate to the Brandon Jackson Memorial Scholarship fund, and to sign up for the basketball tournament. For more information, go to www.bjscholarship.org.
[Reva Hicks is a freelance writer who worked for Channel 4 News for over 30 years.]