Teaching Character Through Athletics

by John Holt on Jun 09, 2017

in Our KIPPsters, Team & Family

The beginning of the month welcomed a new tradition for KIPP Houston Public Schools.

On June 1, 2017 athletes from KIPP Generations Collegiate, KIPP Houston High School, KIPP Northeast College Preparatory, and KIPP Sunnyside High School gathered inside the “R” Room of Rice Stadium for the first-ever KIPP Houston Public Schools Athletics Banquet.

“The whole point of the event was to honor the student-athletes, and we did that,” KIPP Houston Public Schools Regional Athletic Director Jeffrey Feller said. “The kids were really excited to be here. We were excited to be here. The parents and coaches were excited to be here. It was a terrific night.”

The banquet began with a catered dinner from Triple J’s Smokehouse and was later followed by a program recognizing student-athletes on their 2016-17 accomplishments.

Before the recognitions got underway, Houston Rockets Assistant Athletic Trainer and Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Motoki Fujii, delivered an inspiring speech.

Fujii spoke to KIPP athletes and families about his experiences with the Rockets and what sports has taught him in life.

“Honestly, I have always been terrified of speaking in front of people,” Fujii said. “I actually really didn’t want to do this, I almost passed up on it, but I knew this was one of my biggest weaknesses, and I would never get comfortable at it if I never tried. One of the best pieces of advice that a mentor of mine passed down to me was, ‘get comfortable at being uncomfortable.’ I’ve applied it to my life since and never let an opportunity go by.”  

Following Fujii’s speech, each high school athletic director read aloud the names of their all-state and all-region athletes. The athletes were then each presented with a certificate.

KIPP Sunnyside senior Tiara Hartfield was the recipient of the Female Athlete of the Year, while KIPP Generations senior James Jackson was honored as the Male Athlete of Year.

“I’m very grateful and happy because I had coaches, parents and coaches from other schools motivate me,” Hartfield said. “I feel special, and I thank everybody for voting for me and putting me on the ballot for this award.”

Jackson said of his honor, “It was shocking. I had earned Male Athlete of the Year for my school, but this was out of everybody in KIPP Houston. You have a lot of kids who are competitive and just as good as me. When they called my name, I didn’t believe it was me. I wanted to cry.”

Feller said that holding the banquet at Rice wasn’t difficult to arrange and believes the “R” Room was an ideal location as it overlooked the Owls’ football field.

“The students saw that it can happen,” Feller said. “They looked outside and saw Rice football players practicing. These kids could do that. Our kids can compete at that level.”

With every seat in the room filled, the evening was an occasion to remember for all. 

“Tonight was one of the biggest nights because all of the KIPP (high schools) schools were here,” Jackson said.

And as the banquet aims to expand and continue in the coming years, Feller was encouraged with the start. “KIPP has always been known for being very strong academically,” Feller said. “We want to use athletics as a tool to continue that. We want to be academically and athletically great.”

To view pictures from the banquet, please click here.

High School KIPP Cup – KIPP Generations Collegiate
Middle School KIPP Cup – KIPP Academy Middle School
High School Boys Coach of the Year – Bonisile Ntlemeza, Head Soccer Coach, KIPP Generations Collegiate
High School Girls Co-Coaches of the Year – Skyler Tennessee, Head Girls Track Coach, KIPP Sunnyside / Hernan Valencia, Head Girls Soccer Coach, KIPP Houston High School
Middle School Boys Coach of the Year – Ryland Mosley, Head Basketball Coach, KIPP Liberation
Middle School Girls Coach of the Year – Brittany Green, Head Basketball Coach, KIPP Spirit
KHPS Female Athlete of the Year – Tiara Hartfield, KIPP Sunnyside – Hartfield will be attending North Platte Community College to play volleyball and basketball.
KHPS Male Athlete of the Year – James Jackson, KIPP Generations Collegiate – Jackson will be attending Graceland University to play football and baseball.

Three Texas Christian Athletic League 3A State Championships
Girls Soccer – KIPP Houston High School
Boys Soccer – KIPP Generations Collegiate
Girls Track and Field – KIPP Sunnyside High School
TCAL 3A School of the Year – KIPP Sunnyside High School
TCAL 3A Coach of the Year – Dwayne Thomas, KIPP Sunnyside
Three YES-KIPP Middle School League League Championships
Girls Basketball – KIPP Spirit
Boys Basketball – KIPP Liberation
Girls Soccer – KIPP Academy Middle School
KIPP Primary Athletic League Champions
Soccer – KIPP Connect
Basketball – KIPP Zenith