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Jason Collins, NBA Veteran and Activist, Visits CollegeSpring Students for Program Kick-Off Events

For high school juniors, August has a tendency to bring more stress than previous new school years. Starting in the eleventh grade, students must balance schoolwork and extracurriculars with a new set of responsibilities outside of the classroom: preparing for the SAT, and the beginning of detailed college planning.

Last week, CollegeSpring students at Alain Leroy Locke College Preparatory Academy and Ánimo Watts Charter High School in Los Angeles were able to kick off this new life stage in a unique way: with a visit from NBA veterans and twin brothers Jason and Jarron Collins.

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The event was spearheaded by Jason, a committed youth advocate and CollegeSpring board member who in 2013 became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major American pro sport league. Speaking to new juniors at both schools, Jason and Jarron drew on their academic and athletic careers to talk about the value of a college education, share lessons on goal-setting and overcoming obstacles, and offer advice for the upcoming year.

“I’ll say the same thing I say to everyone who is starting something new: sometimes it won’t come easy to you. But if you continue to work hard, and put in the time and effort, you will improve,” Jason said. “I’ve seen so many examples of kids who have gone through [CollegeSpring] and become better test takers…it can be challenging, but you can become a better test taker too.”

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Jason and Jarron also toured both schools, posed for photos,and spent time talking with students one-on-one about their college goals.

“It’s motivational that they experienced high school and college and they came to explain it to us,” said Ánimo Watts junior Larena Haywood, who will participate in CollegeSpring this year. “They’re not only explaining their successes, but explaining their downfalls, and letting us know that you can push through.”

Junior Khoury Humphrey agreed, adding that he appreciated how Jason and Jarron “explained the hardships that they had, and what roads and what paths it took to get where they are today.”

The event was also an opportunity for students to reflect on their own college goals. Khoury, a member of Animo Watt’s Urban Scholars program who plans to major in music engineering, said Jason and Jarron’s speech reminded him that “You’ve just got to stay focused and not get into the side world, like how they say it. Got to buckle down to all the work.”

By participating in CollegeSpring this year, he hopes to learn, “About the financial aid–I want to know what it’s going to be like, and what it’s going to take. Hopefully, someday, I’ll get a college letter. To see what the college life is really about.”

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For Jason, the school visits were an opportunity both to provide guidance and to support a type of community work he sees as particularly important.

“I love programs that work with young people and education, because education has been such a huge part of my life,” he said. “And the SAT is so important. The higher you score, the more options you have in higher education.”

He also drew personal motivation from his interactions with students.

“Some people think that the younger generation doesn’t want to work hard. That they want everything handed to them,” he said. “But that’s not true. It’s inspiring to see these young men and women working hard. It makes me want to work hard to help them.”