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Chicago native Will Bynum gives college scholarships to Chicago youth

Bynum with Marquis Jackson and Candace McClellan, who won the Will Bynum Inspiration Scholarship Award
Bynum with Marquis Jackson and Candace McClellan, who won the Will Bynum Inspiration Scholarship Award
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Chicago native and Detroit Pistons point guard Will Bynum knows just how unforgiving the streets of Chicago can be for children growing up and trying to find a way to improve the life of themselves as well as their families.

That is the main reason he feels it’s his obligation to continue to assist his city in any way he can, mainly in helping to deliver hope and opportunities to children.

Just recently, Bynum asked students at South Shore high school to write essays for what was called the Will Bynum Inspiration Scholarship. The essays would be focused on what inspired the individual. Nearly 500 students submitted essays and two winners were chosen, 16 year-old Marquis Jackson, who wrote about the inspiration his hard-working has been in his life and his love for her, and 15 year-old Candance McClellan, who wrote about her love for poetry and the inspiration that comes from her father’s love and encouragement.

While still years away from graduation, both Jackson and McClellan are now able to take a course of their choice at Harold Washington College, which will count towards their college credits upon receiving their high school diplomas.

“It’s very exciting knowing that you won with that many people participating in (in the essay contest),” Jackson said. “With knowing that, I knew I had to work harder to win. It’s good for me to know I was one of the winners.

Both students and their families were personal guests of Bynum’s during Friday night’s Bulls’ win over Bynum’s Pistons. It was the students as well as their parent’s first Bulls game and they even got a chance to meet the namesake of their scholarship awards.

“I was shocked when I found out I won,” said McClellan. “For me, I just write about what I feel.” sat down with Bynum after the Bulls came back to defeat his Pistons and he shed some light on the scholarships and the current plight of Chicago’s youth.

How did the inspiration scholarship come to be?

I wanted to choose a public school that was doing well. It was to give the kid an opportunity they could take advantage of in getting some college experience and hopefully do something with that or hopefully learn something with that experience.

Why do you think the media only portrays the negative aspect attached to the youth here and things like what you’re doing and the kids you’re working with are kept quiet?

It’s sad to say, but that’s what the world wants to see. The world wants to see things that are wrong, but it should be the complete opposite. With a lot of people, what’s wrong and what’s right, it’s like a thin line. And to constantly feed the human mind negativity all the time and thinking that’s what you need to see; it kinds of hurts you at the end of the day, hurts you as a human. I don’t think people really understand, it’s all about making money. It’s not about uplifting each other as humans. I should be though. You would think that (the media) would want to shed more light to contrast the negativity here in the city.

I just try and do whatever I can do because I know I come straight from where these kids are coming from and I understand it. I understand completely what they’re going through, walking to different schools and past different gangs and everything surrounding that. It’s hard for a child to make a grownup decision at (a young) age, it’s tough. I just want to give as many opportunities as I can.

Were you surprised at the amount of kids that participated?

I wasn’t surprised because kids want to be great, want to dream and do great things in life, but sometimes they just don’t have that opportunity. I just want to give them opportunities to take advantage of because I was given opportunities; that’s the reason I’m at where I am today. I think a lot of people that are making decisions don’t understand the area and what’s really going on out here in the streets and being a child (in that environment).

(Children) are our future. It’s all about raising them and bringing them up the right way, giving them different opportunities to be great at what they do what they want to do. I don’t think that we’re giving kids that, especially in the inner city.

The problem isn’t in just one segregated area of the city as you’re well aware of. With such a tall task in what you’re trying to do, have you ever thought about reaching out to other athletes from Chicago to help in your efforts?

I thought about that but it has to be genuine and from your heart. It’s hard for me to go up to someone and ask them for something that they should be doing. I know because I was walking to school, I was there in the community, in special programs and doing all of these different things that were there for me. I choose to do the positive route but the negative route was right there too. It was something that you couldn’t avoid and I think (youth) doesn’t have a choice now.

I think that they’re making it where kids don’t have a choice now. When you don’t have a choice, it’s crime, that’s what’s going to happen.

Your overall goal with your foundation is to branch off into as many areas where the youth seriously need resources, but what’s your goal here in the city?

Anybody who is/was successful that came from the inner city, I want everybody to be involved in helping these kids reach their goals. I think that’s our obligation. We made it out so we should go back so they can hear our stories and understand what it takes and the values and mentality that you have to have to make it. (Us being there) makes it easier for them when it’s time for them to make a grown up decision when we’re not around. My main goal is to uplift and get as many inner city kids to be successful no matter what they do.

It doesn’t really matter what it is. It takes the same focus, same vision, persistence; you have to be the same way. I don’t think kids understand that now. They’re just living second by second, minute by minute. They’re not really thinking days ahead. They’re not thinking about a career or a job. When you’re thinking that way, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Overall, I want to get as big as possible and I want to change the culture of the (youth), especially in the city of Chicago. I just want to be a part of helping people see how important kids are, especially in poor areas.

It’s vital. I don’t think we understand that as a people, some people just overlook it. There has to be some kind of balance, where whether you’re in the suburbs or the city, you’re getting the same quality of education. There has to be opportunities and inner city kids aren’t getting opportunities. I understand that and I want to try and do whatever I can to help and hopefully things can turn around. Everything starts off with something small happening and it ends up becoming big and hopefully, that’s what is going on here.

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