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South Canton Educator Engaging NHA Scholars, Community Through Basketball

NHA Communications Team  |  June 20, 2024
When Laurence Gray noticed a concerning trend for scholar-athletes at South Canton Scholars, he decided to take action and help increase student engagement.

Gray, South Canton’s achievement and behavior specialist, saw that while scholars were participating in sports, their grades were good, however, out of the athletic season, their academic success was slipping. He also heard feedback from parents of scholars not involved in athletics that they were disappointed their child had no platform to be a part of a team.

Grand River student shooting the basketball
A Grand River Academy scholar attempts a shot during the All-Star Girls’ Basketball Game.

Naturally, Gray decided to start a Saturday basketball league at South Canton, welcoming students of all ages and skill levels to play basketball. He decided to include Moral Focus lessons every week to complement the teamwork-building basketball games.

“I had so much feedback stating kids had a lot more confidence at home,” Gray said. “Their academics were improving, and we continued moving it forward, especially as we kept engaging the community.”

The weekend basketball wasn’t the only way Gray got scholars to stay engaged in school. He created a girls’ all-star game featuring middle school players from seven National Heritage Academies (NHA) partner-schools. Scholars from Grand River Academy, Canton Charter Academy, and South Canton Scholars faced off against girls from Achieve Charter Academy, Canton Preparatory High School, South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy, and Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy. Each school’s coach selected three girls from the varsity middle school basketball team to participate in the game.

Seven NHA schools participated in the basketball game.
Seven NHA schools participated in the all-star event at Canton Preparatory High School.

Planning for the event took about two and a half months. The Canton Meijer and a local Dick’s Sporting Goods sponsored the event, ensuring all participants went home with a basketball. Canton Prep hosted the game, and Gray was happy to get an assist from Canton Prep Principal Carlos Hall.

“He told me that he would help with whatever we needed,” Gray said. “He was there to support us and came out to the gym at 7:30 a.m. to help us set up.”

While the hoops were the star of the show, the impact the girls’ all-star game and Saturday basketball league made on the community was immense. Gray said he saw outstanding engagement from students, parents, and stakeholders alike.

All athletes received a basketball.
All athletes took home a basketball thanks to the community partnership of a local Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Canton Meijer also supported the event. 

“I saw so much involvement,” Gray said. “The parents were asking, ‘Where can we fit in? How can we donate?’ They want to see these events continue to prosper, so they want to be involved. The Canton police were also there and wanted to be there the entire time unless they had a call.”

The girls’ all-star game grabbed the attention of boys’ basketball players. With the help of Gray again next year, both boys’ and girls’ all-star games are anticipated.

“We want to make sure that all students can participate and have a platform because we know how it affects their confidence and how it affects their behavior,” Gray said.

Gray speaking at the event.
Laurence Gray, South Canton’s achievement and behavior support specialist, initiated the all-star event as well as a Saturday basketball league.

Thanks for your hard work, Mr. Gray!

About National Heritage Academies
National Heritage Academies (NHA) is a network of more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools across nine states, serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. For more information, visit