Jermel President sat at his favorite corner table inside Alluette's restaurant and put the holistic soul food and iced tea on hold for long points of emphasis.
"What I offer," the 35-year-old former point guard said, "is not out there."
What an appropriate setting, a black-owned business on Reid Street roughly between Burke High School and the College of Charleston. Those are President's alma maters, mere blocks apart and in other ways worlds away.
The short walk and deep abyss are central to President's planned book, "Both Sides of Calhoun."
More immediately, he is excited about the possibility of expanding the main elements of his successful DAE Foundation into local schools. Establishing structure by trying to "educate and train student- athletes to be skilled, effective and responsible citizens of their communities" is atop the DAE mission statement. President said a preliminary meeting this week at Charleston County School District headquarters went well.
"I'm a proven witness that this works," said President, who helped coach John Kresse's Cougars make three NCAA Tournament appearances in a row from 1997-99. "You don't evolve from an urban school to graduating from the College of Charleston and being on their Alumni Board without learning a lot. I used to wash dishes, but I would also hang around and talk with the owners. I know people at Burke High School and I also know (Charleston Mayor) Joe Riley. I know what it takes. I have the ingredients."
Looking for support
Eventually, this President might be elected mayor.
For now, he wants to reach disadvantaged kids through basketball (and maybe other sports later) while plugging students into academic and life skills programs that help form bridges over Calhoun Street. Exact details are on the drawing board, but President hopes an applicable framework can be tailored to each school.
"I'm not looking for funding," President said. "I'm looking for support."
The pitch comes with credibility.
The non-profit DAE Foundation (daefoundation.org) is named for President's mother Deloris and his grandmother Estelle, the people most responsible for raising him.
"Kids and parents need to take the extra step," he said. "You can't blame the schools."
With partners such as MUSC, the YMCA and Kaplan's test preparation services and sponsors, including TBonz and The Kickin' Chicken, the DAE concept for kids 7 to 17 ranges from good nutritional habits to recreation league play and competitive AAU basketball.
'The whole package'
The dream has grown annually for 11 years.
But there always is a nightmarish example of need. The latest, President pointed out, is news that 2010 Burke High School graduate and high-profile football recruit Del'Javon Simmons failed to qualify for admission to The Citadel.
"He could have changed the whole city of Charleston," President said shaking his head.
Today, President wants to help athletic-minded kids get from Burke and other Lowcountry schools to the College of Charleston or The Citadel. Or Duke.
"It's been an issue since before I was in high school," President said. "But I didn't really have my arms wrapped around the whole package of how to supply those needs. But through my trials and tribulations, I have my finger on it now."
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 937-5593.
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