Sports agent Aaron Goodwin to give keynote speech at Oakland event
OAKLAND, Calif. May 27, 2014 — Growing up primarily in foster care. Flunking all your freshman year high school classes. Having no expectations from anyone of ever graduating high school. Entering your last years of school with a grade point average below 2.0. Today all are in college or on the way there.
Each seemed destined for failure: in school and at life. They and many other Oakland teenagers, however, would overcome what for most would seem insurmountable. Their paths to academic success, although filled with deep and sometimes enduring potholes, included support and encouragement by a nonprofit dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth succeed – academically as well as athletically.
Yet their stories are seldom told, rarely seen or recognized, and often overlooked, by a mainstream media geared toward articles and news that reinforce denigrating stereotypes as well as stigmatize and sensationalize issues commonly associated with low-income urban life. That’s about to change.
Wednesday evening at The Washington Inn in downtown Oakland, several student athletes will be saluted as part of the first ever Oakland Athletic League ESPY Awards sponsored by the Student Program for Academic and Athletic Transitioning. SPAAT teamed with the OAL to inaugurate what they say will become an annual end-of-the-academic-year public tribute to those teenagers who have persevered while enduring some of life’s greatest challenges.
“This will be an annual event to start a tradition of shining a light on the excellence that happens every year in Oakland,” SPAAT Executive Director Harold Pearson wrote in an email response to the media. “There is so much negative narrative about our young people today.” Pearson’s email continues. “We only hear about them when there is gang violence, drug abuse, low graduation rates or sagging pants. It is time to shine a light on the amazing young people in Oakland who are making a difference.”
Two students – one male and one female – will each win a college scholarship as top athlete of the year. The full list of awards is as follows:
- OAL Alumni Outstanding Achievement
- OAL Female Student Athlete of the Year
- OAL Male Student Athlete of the Year
- OAL Coach of the Year 2013-14
- All-Academic Team Medals (8 awardees)
The event, “SPAAT Presents the Oakland Athletic League ESPY Awards”, will feature a special salute to the volunteer coaches who donate time, dollars and effort into supporting the youth in achieving their dreams. “There are many coaches in Oakland that volunteer their time, money and resources to supporting young people, and they are very much taken for granted,” Pearson wrote in the email. “It is time to appreciate and honor them. The OAL Coach of the Year will be an on-going award, too.”
An acronym for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly, the concept for the awards originated in discussions among OAL Commissioner Russell White, Pearson and Arizona Cardinal (NFL) and ACES Foundation President Lorenzo Alexander. Given the five-year partnership between SPAAT and OAL – starting with their first student athlete camp in 2009 at Skyline High School – and their common mission to support student athletes, recognizing these teens for achievements on and off the field with a formal awards dinner banquet and red carpet extravaganza seemed “a perfect fit.”
Besides the red carpet and dinner, the event will include a key note address by noted sports agent Aaron Goodwin of Goodwin Sports Management who also is an alumnus of the Oakland Unified School District/Oakland Athletic League (Oakland High). “These students are special because they have displayed excellence on the field or court of play and in the classroom,” Pearson wrote. “Some have also overcome insurmountable obstacles and made extraordinary contributions to their communities.”