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By Brandi Worley

“He signed mines,” said one girl. “He signed my shirt too!” another teen girl squealed with delight outside to her friends. She was referring to one of the several celebrities who came to McKinley Middle Magnet school for the first Achieve One Teen Summit in Baton Rouge.

The program, held Saturday afternoon, was put on by the Achievement Academy in partnership with NBA players Tyrus Thomas and Glen “Big Baby” Davis Foundations.

While the NBA and its players are locked out, still unsure whether there will be a season or not and some players are flying across the pond to play ball, Thomas and Davis, both 25, decided to give back to their community. Squealing and cheering sounds were heard on the campus from about 300 kids in the closing theater as Thomas and Davis did some of the latest hip-hop dance moves.

“These are the kids of my community,” said Thomas, a 6-foot-10 power forward in his fifth NBA season. “It’s really important to come out and motivate them positively, and to be an inspiration to them always helps.”

Thomas, a Baton Rouge native averaged 10.2 points per game, pulled down 5.5 rebounds and blocked 1.6 shots last year for the Charlotte Bobcats.

Philanthropy is nothing new to Thomas, coming from an underprivileged background himself. It’s in his heart to give back.

“It’s not something I practice or work at, it’s a way I feel,” Thomas said. “I listen to a lot of music and I remember being in college and listening to Talib Kweli, on “The Beautiful Struggle” and he said ‘Whenever you make it out the ‘hood, you just gotta remember that you always put your heart into it. Give back and take the lessons from it.’ That’s what I just try to do. I think about what I got from my community and I give it back.”

Thomas was awarded the Jefferson Award last year, and now stands in great company amongst past recipients of the award such as Oprah Winfrey and Colin Powell.

Students from schools from around the city were treated to motivational talks, panel discussions and live performances from rappers Lil Mama, Dee-1, Kevin Gates and B. Montrell. Topics included leadership, safety, health, education and literacy.

“It’s very important for me to be out here today. It’s a lot of kids that look up to me.
I appreciate being out here to give them some knowledge on life, every day life. The kids have been asking me good questions,” said ATL actor, Jackie Long who fielded questions about serious topics such as his life, industry experience to light-hearted inquires like if he knew where rapper, and co-star in ATL T.I. was at the moment.

Long said it was important for him to be there to support his friends.

“It’s an NBA lockout and it’s a lot of NBA players doing little tournament basketball things,” Long said. “Tyrus and Big Baby are doing something different. I think kids are what keeps the world going. Without kids it wouldn’t be no basketball, no acting, nothing. What they’re doing right now is a big part of life. It’s a blessing to be doing something for kids. They’re not just doing something stupid with their time.”

Davis echoed the sentiments of his counterparts.

“Today’s event was great because you had people who came from different lives and made it a certain success to come back and talk to the kids,” explained Davis, a 6-foot-9 forward for the Boston Celtics. “That’s what’s most important to give the kids a great example of life and understand the choices that they make can effect them years down the road.”

Davis was drafted in 2007 as a second round pick by Seattle. He averaged 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds a game last season as a Celtic.

Alvin Pierce said he learned lessons from Davis’ life.

“Out of today’s event I learned to always follow your dreams and don’t give up no matter what anyone says,” the 14-year-old said. “They did a good job to come tell us what we need to learn today and keep it up. …With Big Baby I learned that they grew up in the hood and things and still made it without being a drug dealer.”

Christina Smith, a parent of one of the children in attendance, was happy to bring her son and niece to the program.

“It’s very important so that they can get more education,” said Smith, a Baton Rouge native with son Michael, 13, and Jakayla, 12.

The program gave away four Wii game consoles, two Xbox 360 game consoles and 10 iPod shuffles as well as cds and t-shirts.

@brandiworley