“You have to start charting your course now,” NBA great M.L. Carr told nearly 300 students from Chester Charter Scholars Academy on Wednesday at Neumann University, as part of the Philadelphia Union Foundation’s iAM Project Inspirational Speaker Series. Carr shared stories from his childhood, as well as his time as both a player and general manager for the Boston Celtics.
“During your time, do not waste your time,” Carr said, after sharing that his brother had just passed away. “Plan things out and make it real. And ask for help. If there is one word I want to leave you with today, it is help.”
Following his speech, Carr answered questions for a smaller group of approximately 70 students participating in the iAM Project. The questions ranged from queries about his time playing in the NBA (Carr said Larry Bird was a better basketball player than he was), to the challenges he faced as a child and the importance of family.
Helping students achieve their goals is at the core of the iAM Project, which was founded in 2021. It provides personal, academic and professional opportunities to students at Chester Charter Scholars Academy, and is designed to address the effects of socio-economic inequality on social mobility by focusing on three core pillars — inspiration, aspiration and mentorship. The speaker series is a key part of the iAM Project’s programming, designed to inspire students to look beyond the challenges they may be facing today and see what is possible in the future.
“Our goal is to help the students of Chester succeed, and to do that, they must be able to visualize what their futures will look like. Connecting these students with speakers like M.L. Carr, who have overcome significant challenges in their own lives, can inspire big dreams,” said Paul Howard, executive director, Philadelphia Union Foundation. “Through the iAM Project, we want to give students the connections, mentors and inspiration they need to achieve those dreams.”
The iAM Project leverages a network of inspirational speakers, academic and professional mentors, as well as innovative links to industry, universities and internship providers to create ongoing opportunities for the participants. This is the third Inspirational Speaker Series event the iAM Project has hosted. Previous speakers include Jimmy White IV and Rich Kleiman.
The iAM Project is supported through partnerships with BIMBO Bakeries USA, The Boeing Company, the Durant Family Foundation, Language Services Associates, Lincoln Financial Group, Neumann University and WSFS Bank.