When I think about all of the success I have achieved in my life, I first need to thank my parents, Sandee and Ed Battier. Mom and Dad, thank you for giving me the keys to achieving all of my dreams and ambitions. Thank you for your love and support. Perhaps most importantly, thank you for every book that you ever put into my hands.
See, I didn’t grow up with much. New clothes every Christmas and for each birthday? Nah. That was a special treat every now and then, and I learned to love hand-me-downs from neighbors. Fancy dinners, plus dessert? Please…I’ll take some more Hamburger Helper on my plate instead. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but always had enough of the essentials. I will always remember two things about growing up in that tiny three-bedroom house with my parents, brothers and sister. First, I learned how to compete, from all of the battles on the uneven driveway with my dad and brother Jeremy, shooting hoops until well after the sun went down. Talk about knockdown, drag-out brawls -the NBA was a piece of cake compared to these games! And secondly, I will remember how lucky I was to be surrounded by cases and cases of books.
While I was the last kid on my block to get a Nintendo and my folks never bought me a pair of those fancy Girbaud jeans, I never felt a shortage of great books and other things to read. Heck, I learned to read by browsing the sports page of the Detroit Free Press when I was 5 years old. My mom often recalls driving by Chicago Road in Troy, Michigan when I piped up from the back and asked, “Is that where the Bears play?” Mom asked where I had learned that, I replied “the newspaper!” The love of learning and reading was instilled in me at an early age, and the great books I read, like The Boxcar Children and The Little Engine That Could, are among my earliest memories.
My parents were not fortunate enough to achieve the highest secondary schooling – my dad attended a transportation college and my mom went to junior college. But my dad worked his fingers to the bone, and my mom made countless sacrifices to make sure we could afford the remaining tuition to Detroit Country Day School not covered by my academic scholarship. DCDS is arguably the best high school in the Detroit area, and I felt privileged to attend it. Looking back, I am so appreciative of my parents’ hard work and the sacrifices they made for me and my siblings. They were determined that their children’s educational opportunities would not be limited in any way.
And there was no way I was going to let them down.
I attacked my education and schooling with the same focus and passion that I used on the basketball court. There was no challenge too large for me on the hoops court or in the classroom. Why? Because it was up to me. I realized at an early age that I had been given the most important highway to the success I dreamed for myself: opportunity and access.
I knew that high marks would make me attractive to any and every university in the country. I was also fortunate to also be 6’8’’ and a pretty good basketball player, which opened a few doors as well. But if basketball was not to be my future, I always knew that as long as I had my education and my desire to learn, I could do and be anything in this world. And I still believe that.
I am absolutely blessed to have graduated from one the world’s great universities in Duke. I am so proud to have graduated with honors. When I received my diploma, and my brother and sister went on to do the same, I knew the hard work, sacrifice and dedication of my parents had ultimately paid off. I will forever be grateful to them.
I promised myself in high school that if I ever made it to “the big time” that I would dedicate my life, my resources and my energies to helping those who need assistance in reaching their dreams through a college education. I feel it’s my duty and my responsibility. As a comparative religion major, this is absolutely the karmic play that needs to happen. Just as my parents created access and opportunity for me, it is my responsibility to do the same for others.
There are so many talented and driven kids out there WHO JUST NEED A CHANCE FOR GREATNESS. I was one of them. For all the success that I’ve had in my life, without the help of others – especially on my educational journey – I don’t know where I would be today.
You can’t control what situation you are born into. You can’t control your gene pool. Sometimes life deals you a tough hand. But if there is one thing in life you can control, it’s yourself. If you respect yourself, put the time in, and believe in yourself, with access to higher education and the desire to learn, your possibilities are endless.
As we re-launch the Battier Take Charge Foundation website, I am reminded ‘Why education?’ For me, it is about paying it forward. It is about unlocking the absolute special potential of kids who just need some support. It is about pushing your mind and reaching your dreams.