What do Michael Jordan and the Hornets' Nest Elementary have in Common?
“Good morning...welcome to the first day of your internship...let's go see Michael Jordan!” is the gist of my summer supervisor's welcome to work speech. At the early hour of 7 am, I was picked up by Ann Clark, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Deputy Superintendent, and taken to the Hornet's Nest Elementary campus. Michael Jordan, many Hornet's representatives, and dozens of other volunteers had “Swarmed to Serve” Hornets' Nest Elementary in a service event to publicize the professional basketball team's recent name change and establish their commitment to education. Complete with a fuzzy, teal and purple Hornets mascot and every student from the school eagerly waiting, MJ made his long anticipated appearance.
This is not what I was expecting when I was emailed about “an interesting education opportunity” early on Monday morning. The connection between K12 education and the world famous NBA basketball player, Space Jam star, and Hornets' owner was not immediately obvious. The picture became more and more obvious throughout the event. Hornets' Nest Elementary was opened the same year as the Charlotte Hornets basketball team was founded and the school was named in the team's honor. Since then the name has changed to the Bobcats, and recently changed back to the Hornet's. At this June 9 event, the Hornets announced a quarter million dollars which they would be giving the Charlotte Mecklenburg School district. Michael Jordan personally announced two $5,000 innovation grants awarded to two Hornets' Nest teachers.
Looking around the frenzied crowd of teachers, children, and extensive array of media personnel, I thought about how great of a public rebranding event this must be for the Hornets. But this wasn't just a Hornets publicity event, it had the potential to mean much more; I remembered what Ann Clark had said to me as we watched kid after kid step of their bus with their Air Jordan's slapping the pavement with every step; she mused about how big of a impact someone like Michael Jordan could have for public change and how it's a shame that he doesn't have more of a presence. Michael Jordan and the Hornets in general managed to attract a sizeable crowd of volunteers, stir up social media attention, draw several news vans, and nearly caused several teachers to faint. All at the same time, they drew the public's attention to education in the very city that they play basketball. The power of such famous individuals is an often under realized and almost always under utilized force for change. No matter how relevant an issue to the public is, a celebrity can always turn heads more quickly.