Athletic Star Who Could Not Read: Speaker at Youth Program

Honor Warren Wells TheTorch@dbintayaelSenior Writer IIAugust 9, 2009

A string of F's. A bundle of frustration. Dennis Kennedy was an athletic star in high school. A football player with many city and state accolades, yet he had a problem. He was admitted to college with a reading level at about the fifth grade.

How can that happen? He told us at a luncheon on Aug. 8, 2009. Kennedy's candid presentation was applauded by the nearly 200 participants at a buffet luncheon.  Some of the participants in a youth program have had similar experiences in high school and college.

Kennedy even shared the fact that there were special courses in his college that were designed so that he and others would not fail. After all, the university wanted them to play football and if their GPA was too low, they would be put off the team.

Some professors, however, were frank with Kennedy and others. Those are the ones that Kennedy appreciates. He, finally, refocused his energy and started passing classes. He graduated with a four year degree in seven years.

As I listened to his presentation, I asked myself, "Might there be others in, say, the NFL, NBA, and NCAA who cannot read at the college level? What happens when the athletes slide through the system, without getting the skills to negotiate a competitive and challenging society?"

Where do these men and women end up?

The World Youth Foundation, Inc. sponsored the brunch, with support from the Houston Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Houston, HEB, and many others including parents, lawyers and corporate executives.

The foundation's motto is "Planting Seeds for the Future of our Youth." It was clear that athletics was an integral component of this program which is designed to guide and mentor young people. Two of the youth participants declared that they want to be professional athletes.

One of the highlights of the program was a powerful, brief speech by the honorable Sheila Jackson-Lee, United States House of Representatives, 18th congressional District (Houston, Texas). She demonstrated her commitment to youth development by appearing on the program.

At the end of the program, Jackson-Lee paused to take a picture with a young high school teacher, Nicole Williams, who desires to be a consultant to the youth in the World Youth Foundation.

Williams is also the public relations director for her father's ministry, The Beau Williams Ministries that makes regular appearances on TBN Television. Williams is bilingual. She gives talks on "teenage abstinence."

The keynote speaker, Dennis Kennedy, admitted that sports got him into college, but hard work is what finally got him out. He stated that although he graduated with a bachelors degree, his GPA was far too low to get into an MBA program.

Determination is what the former star athlete stressed. Kennedy, also, went back to college and got another degree in business. He improved his GPA and finally entered an MBA program. He graduated in two semesters because of his determination and maturity.

The youth participants gazed at Kennedy because he now is the CEO of several organizations, located across the United States. He is the founder and president of the National Diversity Council.

Kennedy, no doubt, made a big impression on the young people with varied backgrounds. Some of them aspire to be professional athletes, and they certainly heard the "truth and nothing but the truth" about the academic preparation of some athletic stars.

Do you wonder if there are others, like Kennedy, who slipped through the educational system, and now need to re-group and get back to "reading, writing and arithmetic"?


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