Every Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7:00 am-7:40 am at the local gym, Morning Hoops meets at our Downtown Middle School. The group is lead by Mr. Ibrahim Shafau and on any given day, generally consists of 7-10 kids that come from all three grades (6th – 8th). There are 20 kids total enrolled in the before school program.
This year, AmeriCorps Tutor, Ibrahim Shafau has taken on the role of organizing and leading the Morning Hoops extracurricular club. Mr. Shafau graduated high school in 2009 and went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan because he wanted to get out of Ohio. “I was a kid who was sent home after the first semester [because of] a little too much freedom. I moved back to Cleveland and realized being back home was not for me. [So] I joined the United States Air Force. Then I was able to get my history degree at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio.”
Mr. Shafau found out about the AmeriCorp Urban Education Fellowship in Newark, NJ through his current school’s job fair. He is currently studying to get a Masters Degree in Museum management with a Museum profession at Seton Hall University.
When he first heard about the AmeriCorps Urban Education Fellowship he said “It just seemed like the most feasible opportunity to combine the two worlds that I’m working in. I want to connect museums with marginalized scholars in order to reinforce what they’re learning using the museum resources to enhance their scholastic ability and critical thinking skills.”
As a 6th grade ICS tutor, the AmeriCorps Fellowship gives Mr. Shafau that connection to marginalized scholars in the classroom and tutorial. “The biggest difference I noticed is that [ICS Tutors] are actually in the classroom during our tutorials … the students have 5 other adults in there to help implement instruction and reinforce student learning.” Mr. Shafau describes this hands on experience as “pivotal and definitely going to help enhance their scholastic aptitude.”
Morning Hoops is another way that Mr. Shafau hopes to help students’ academic and social skills. “I’m a firm believer that playing basketball says a lot about who you are as a person. Doesn’t matter if you’re the best player or not, it says a load about your character. Are you going to do what needs to be done without being asked? Are you going to hustle? Are you going to give up? Are you going to help your teammate? Are you going to look for an assist? Those type of things correlate to life and that’s definitely what I drill and instill in the morning.”
After becoming involved with Morning Hoops, Mr. Shafau has created an accountability structure to ensure that the students feel supported not only on the court, but off the court as well. As a secondary role, Mr. Shafau is also the Dean of Students’ Administrative Assistant.
“We have a good time, but I expect more out of my cohort for morning hoops. If they see me during school, they know that they need to have their shirts tucked in and if they don’t, they are going to be running at the next morning hoops. I make sure that everyone in the cohort holds everybody accountable. If one person’s shirt is untucked, we are all running. It’s been working slowly but surely. [There’s] been a little kick back but more progress than regress.”
The progress is apparent to the students as well, Wilson Iheke commented that the best thing about Morning Hoops is “the lessons that we learn. Mr. Shafau always tells us that basketball applies to life. Like how you play ball is like how you do your work at school. You have to be motivated.”
The accountability structure of Morning Hoops is how Mr. Shafau has adapted the program with his skills. After 6 years in the military, he hopes to teach the kids that basketball is an individual effort with a group goal. He says “ If you’re upset that your losing and you want to quit, we make sure that the people there won’t let you. It’s a team mentality … we are still there to work, play, have fun and I’m there to make sure we’re all growing.”
Ibrahim Shafau is currently an AmeriCorps Urban Education Fellow while finishing his Masters Degree at Seton Hall University in Museum Management. His future plans are to continue his education by getting a PhD in the same field.