The Minneapolis North High Polars Boys Basketball program are two-time defending state champions, a testament of its remarkable turnaround. The high school itself was nearly shuttered in 2010, with enrollment shrinking and test scores falling, and the basketball program was winless in its conference.
But Coach Larry McKenzie and his staff have helped instill Polar Pride on the North Side, on and off the court.
Aside from the city and state titles, Polar boys basketball players are shining in the classroom; 95% of the players are A or B honor students, and 100% of the players have attended at least a two-year school.
We have been granted a classroom at North High that will serve as the Academic and Life Skills Center for our basketball players. The space will serve two main functions: To host mandatory study hall three days a week, from 3:30 until 6 p.m., and to teach life skills through presentations and guest speakers. Life skill topics include being mindful of their health, the pros and cons of social media and technology, how to conduct an interview with reporters, the basics of the recruitment process and learning how to balance a checkbook.
"Kids in our program understand it is a privilege to represent our school and community through basketball," Coach McKenzie says. "We want each of our student–athletes to understand that academic achievement is the key that opens the door of opportunity, not only to play basketball but also be successful in life.
"Education is empowerment."
The room is currently empty, so the funds will go toward desks, chairs, couches, book shelves, projector and screen, and, hopefully, a few tablets the students can utilize.