ABC7 Salutes

Changing the lives of student athletes

Friday, March 27, 2009

If you've ever had a good teacher, you know the powerful impact they can have. A San Francisco educator is changing the lives of student athletes by making them work to succeed academically, as well as athletically. That teacher is the subject of this ABC7 salute.

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Damon Jones and Solomon Walker are superstar athletes at George Washington High in San Francisco. They are trying to do as well off the field, too. One of their courses is a pre-calculus class, the kind of rigorous math they take as part of a program called AIMS or Athletes in Math Succeed.

The program was created three and a half years ago by math teacher Ed Marquez who was tired of seeing student athletes put all their eggs in one basket.

"They put on the uniform and think, 'I'm going pro, I don't need to study, I'm going to go pro,' and I tell them one in 10.000 goes pro. Is that going to be you? I don't want to crush dreams, but what else are you doing? What's your backup plan?" said Marquez.

Marquez chose a small group of the top minority athletes to personally teach and tutor in math throughout their high school years.

"We knew they would influence, they're the big men on campus. They're going to influence the other people to also push themselves," said Marquez.

Through AIMS, more African-American, Latino and Pacific Islanders are taking and passing his high level math classes than ever before in the history of the high school.

"First we thought we can't do it, it's too hard, we barely like math," said Solomon. "But as he showed us that he really cared about us, it made us really want to do it."

Eighteen-year-old Solomon excels at track, football and basketball. But math, not sports, is why he was honored for his outstanding work as AIMS student president.

Solomon credits Ed Marquez.

"It's nice to have him in my life," said Solomon. "I feel blessed to be close to someone like Mr. Marquez."

Marquez says these teenagers are part of his family, which includes his wife and three kids. The guys come to his home for barbeques, parties and tutoring. He expects them to be mentors as well. Giving back is a key component of the AIMS program.

"A lot of them I talk to would say, 'I'll give back when I make this much money,' but we've tried to show them you can give back now, today," said Marquez.

So they have formed a partnership with Lafayette Elementary School, having monthly big brother sessions. The principal there says it's making a difference.

"Some of our young men do not have fathers in their lives and it's been a positive program, so they see a male influence that they can look up to, someone they can count on," said Ruby Brown of Lafayette Elementary School.

You know how you often hear superstar athletes insist they are not role models? Well they are, whether they want to be or not. The AIMS students gladly accept that role.

"It doesn't seem like I'm doing all that much, but I guess it is a big deal," said AIMS student Yoyci Medina. "They look up to all of us."

"The kids like them because they're nice to everybody and they are doing good in school," said 10-year-old Daniel Campos.

"We do this to support each other, and that's why we do this," said 8-year-old Christopher Collier.

All of the AIMS students who graduated from high school last year are now in college.

"How do you really impact a student? It really is the old fashioned -- you love them," said Marquez.

ABC7 salutes Ed Marquez who loves his students by setting the bar high. If you are a teacher who would like to duplicate his program at your school, or a parent who'd like to get your teenager involved, visit www.aimsprogram.pbwiki.com.

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