MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The graduation rate for student athletes in Minneapolis Public Schools is on the rise.
This year and last, 99 percent of athletes graduated.
Now, the district is looking to make that 100 percent.
Many say the dramatic increase in graduation rates is due to a new way of balancing academics and athletics brought to the district by Athletic Director Trent Tucker.
WCCO’s Reg Chapman has more on how the a former U of M basketball standout uses his life lessons to drive home the importance of education to his student athletes.
“I think that sports at Patrick Henry changed my life,” said Javien Versey.
Javien Versey says being a student athlete at Patrick Henry High School changed his life for the better.
“Before I started doing sports I wasn’t the greatest in the classroom,” Versey said.
Versey says a culture of winning was established in the classroom and on the athletic field, a culture that has them striving to be their best academically as well as athletically.
“And I’m able to do things that I love and I’m able to go to college for free,” Versey said.
Versey is heading to the University of Minnesota Duluth on a football scholarship.
Trent Tucker, MPS’s athletic director, is the driving force behind this school of thought.
“What we have been able to do over the last three or four years is find that balance for young people and last year we were able to graduate 99 percent of our student athletes with a 3.1 GPA or higher,” Tucker said.
Tucker played for the Gophers and won an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls but he tells his student athletes what disqualified him from a coaching job at the U of M when the opportunity came up 12 years ago.
“And when the time came for me to interview for that job, I wasn’t qualified. Not because I didn’t know basketball, it’s because I hadn’t finished my college degree,” Tucker said.
That incident sparked Tucker to finish his degree at the University of Minnesota.
Tucker uses his life lesson to help shape and mold the futures of MPS student athletes.
“The coaches held us to a higher standard, so we are always students before we are athletes,” Versey said.
For Versey, it’s a lesson he will never forget and one that is helping lead him to college.
MPS is waiting on final numbers for this year’s graduating student athletes.
Tucker believes they are on course to do as well if not better than last year.
He credits the student athletes all over MPS for doing the hard work the makes way to a bright future.