He walked into the crowded auditorium to thunderous applause.
The 150 teenage mostly African American boys from North Carolina had no idea that Chris Paul would be among the featured guests at this special gathering. Dressed in sport coats and ties, this would be an All-Star Weekend for the ages for the young lads — as camera phones flashed and teeth of all shapes glistened.
But Chris Paul, a Carolina hoops legend — born and bred in nearby Winston Salem — wasn’t here for photo ops.
He was here to drop knowledge.
“Put your phones down, and listen to me,” Paul said sternly. “My time is precious, and so is yours. We’re here for business, and we’re gonna maximize each other’s time.”
In an instant, the temperature in the room dropped, and the young men from Rise 2 Impact, a Charlotte-based nonprofit (whose mission is to educate young boys of color on their path to success), sat up in their chairs to hear “Professor” Paul hold court.
Without question, Chris Paul is comfortable in the classroom; he’s also well aware of the needs of students and educators, particularly as the ongoing pandemic creates never-before-seen challenges.
And, while this 2019 event was well before COVID19, the 10-time All-Star understands that students and educators, particularly those in underserved communities, need self-care resources.
It’s why the Oklahoma City Thunder guard is happy to be teaming with Chopra Global, a leading whole health company founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra, and the Social Change Fund (SCF), a foundation (which Paul co-founded with fellow NBA superstars Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade) that supports critical issues impacting the Black community.
With all that is going on in the world, this is an extremely important tool for our educators to have. The importance of training the mind is a practice that is always going to be a work in progress, and equipping our teachers with this tool to assist them in that journey is imperative.
The partnership, announced in late October, will support teachers and professors in communities serving large minority populations — including Teach For America, DonorsChoose and HBCU Heroes.
“We are so excited for this partnership with Chopra Global and the Social Change Fund,” Paul, 35, explained. “With all that is going on in the world, this is an extremely important tool for our educators to have. The importance of training the mind is a practice that is always going to be a work in progress, and equipping our teachers with this tool to assist them in that journey is imperative.”
As part of the partnership, Chopra Global will provide partner organizations with a one-year subscription to its new Meditation and Well-being App as well as additional self-care and well-being resources and programs, including its popular 21-Day Meditation Experiences with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra.
The Chopra Meditation and Well-Being App features a comprehensive library of simple self-care guidance and meditations for mind, body and spirit to help create and sustain a healthier life, with an emphasis on stress, energy, sleep, mood management, purpose, relationships and growth.
“Teachers have the essential role of helping to shape the minds of the next generation and our future leaders, and given the challenging year we’ve had, this partnership is more important than ever,” added the Brooklyn-born Anthony, himself a 10-time All-Star. “We need to ensure we are supporting the heroes of our underserved communities and equipping them with the tools they need to prioritize their own mental and emotional health.”
When Chris Paul walked into that crowded room, those young men saw a giant of a man — somebody who’d amassed a career most only dream of. They hardly see a man with feelings — or even failings — and professional athletes, at least over the past few years, have taken stock of not only their physical well being, but also of their emotional as well. Their current situation is no different.
Only takes one spark to set it on fire 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 https://t.co/AiwQDHjm7p
— Social Change Fund United (@Socialchangefnd) October 26, 2020
“We’re really sitting at the head of a major paradigm shift for our collective human consciousness,” explained Devi Brown, chief impact officer at Chopra Global, in an exclusive conversation with The Shadow League.
“There’s been this beautiful slow build — especially in the last five years — of our collective consciously really shifting for the highest good of each of us. All of us have really been taking more careful stock of what our lives look like and how we feel. When we think of teachers, particularly ones in underserved environments, they are our children’s first connections to the world, and [they] too are thinking about their own internal self-care — especially in the midst of a global pandemic and an election cycle, and all of the things 2020 has represented.”
Indeed, 2020 has brought a whole new level of angst — making it that much harder to teach, and learn, said Tonia O’Connor, CEO of Chopra Global.
“Amid our country’s healthcare crisis and social unrest, teachers are working harder than ever to connect and provide creative solutions to maintain our children’s education,” O’Connor said. “There has never been a greater need to support our educators, who are everyday heroes. We are honored to work with Carmelo, Chris, Dwyane, and their team at the Social Change Fund to provide teachers, with self-care and wellness resources that nourish their emotional and mental resilience during this unprecedented school year.”
A rep for Chopra told the Shadow League that it’s far too early to gauge usage — metrics for downloads and usage will grow over the next few months — but the partnership will hit thousands of educators across the country.
Like most good teachers who’ve made a lasting impact on their students, their bark far outweighs their bite. Paul is no different. Once he’d established to this hopeful and aspirational group of young men that he was no different than them, he’d made his point — and they fell on his every word.
“I don’t care what it is,” Paul told the group.“I just want you to be passionate about something. Play the piano, reading … if ya’ll fall in love with something, it’ll change your life.”
Professor Paul has spoken.