By: Kelly Mara


Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. 

As much as I enjoy the game of basketball, I probably would have opted out of a volunteer opportunity to travel across the globe to Chennai, India in July (the hottest time of year) if we were simply teaching basketball. Instead, I joined Crossover volunteers, because of the organization’s mission: to inspire and prepare students to continue in their educational pursuits through the university level.

The 4 pillars, Leadership, Teamwork, Character, and Communication, are the very heart of what makes Crossover Basketball and Scholar Academy extraordinary. They are not new and if you’re like me, you may even toss them around in ordinary conversations. But they are essential components that make up any successful individual or team.

When you think about the meaning of these 4 words, they’re not the easy to define or teach – how would you breakdown the meaning of say, Communication, to 400 kids outside your native country?

For example, when asking kids “What is Character,” it’s only normal for them to happily respond “A cartoon!” or “Someone in a movie!” At that age, this would be my answer, too. We all clap together to acknowledge the participant and for bravely sharing during class and do our best to explain what it means so that they understand.

The daily Crossover program sessions include classroom, basketball skills, conditioning, and yoga/meditation. As educators, we come prepared to teach a short lesson, game or workshop that exemplifies the main Pillar of the day. As role models ourselves, we have to be mindful to take exemplify them as well.

Learning doesn’t just happen for the students, however. We volunteers are learning as well. It’s true, the students come from less fortunate backgrounds where they might not have access to clean water, a nearby park, or a coach. They may only be wearing tattered worn out sandals or what is more likely, barefoot. But the lessons within the 4 Pillars at Crossover allow each and every one of us to reflect on a shared universal language that transcend the superficial differences between cultures.

We are all participants. And this alone is an invaluable lesson.

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