Heat’s Shane Battier surprises 21 Miami Central sophomores with college scholarships

Shane Battier has worn a bunch of terrible outfits and made a fool of himself singing many times at his annual karaoke events to raise money for scholarships for underserved youth.

Days like Thursday are why he does it.

The former Miami Heat forward who was part of the franchise’s last two NBA championships and now serves as a member of the front office in charge of analytics surprised 21 high school sophomores at Miami Central High with fully paid four-year college scholarships. The scholarships require the students graduate high school with at least a 2.5 GPA, stay out of trouble and participate in his Battier’s new GUIDE program, which assigns students to college mentors they must meet with twice a month.

Meeting the recipients for the first time Thursday made Battier, 38, quite emotional. When he left the students behind to conduct interviews, tears began streaming down his cheeks as he opened up about the experience.

“They’ve been told ‘no’ so many times. For someone to say ‘Yes, you have a real chance’… it means a lot to me,” said Battier, who along with his wife, Heidi, selected the students off 30-second video submissions they sent in talking about themselves and why they wanted a scholarship.

There were 40 applicants in all according to a spokesman for Miami’s Take Stock in Children Foundation, which teammed up with Battier’s Take Charge Foundation to financially back the scholarships.

“There are so many kids in our community that just need a chance,” Battier continued. “I wish we could give them all scholarships. We’re going to fight like heck to grow this program. And we think it’s just a start. It’s a small start. But it’s an important start.”

Rose Jean-Paul, one of the 21 scholarship recipients, thought she was in trouble when school officials first gathered the group of winners and told them to report to the principal’s office.

“I was scared at first, because I saw some kids I hadn’t seen before. I said ‘Oh my god why am I here?’ But as soon as I saw Shane I screamed ‘We got the scholarship!” said Jean-Paul, who has a 3.8 weighted GPA and would like to attend Florida State University, the University of Central Florida or the University of Florida.

“Without this I probably would have gone to college, but had to fight for a bunch of little scholarships here and there to pay as much of it as I could,” she continued. “This makes it so much easier. We don’t want student loans. Those two words we try to stay away from.”

Battier’s Take Charge foundation has awarded scholarships to high school students in the past to students from Miami, Houston and Detroit, but this new GUIDE program is intended to help students starting in their sophomore year.

Jessica Mackey Grant, a program manager for Take Stock in Children Miami, said the students will formally sign a contract to live up to the scholarships demands on May 15 at AmericanAirlines Arena. That’s when they will also meet their assigned mentors.

“Nothing in this world that’s worth anything doesn’t come without some sacrifice and without work,” Battier said. “This is a contract. This is a commitment. When you commit to the GUIDE program, the Battier Take Charge Foundation, you commit that I’m going to stay out of trouble, keep my grades high, I’m going to show up, I’m going to work – that’s all we require. In return for your commitment, werre going to commit to you a college tuition.”

Why is Battier so committed to this cause?

“I’m a person who has been blessed,” he said. “I made the most of my opportunities and I want to pay that back. I believe in karma. I believe in paying it forward. Call it what you will, that’s something I feel strongly about and that’s part of my fabric.”

▪ In addition to his new title with the Heat, Battier was named last month to USA Basketball’s Junior National team selection committee. He played for the World Championship team in 2006 that won the bronze medal.

“It’s a huge honor,” Battier said. “I take the responsibility very seriously to keep USA Basketball on top.”

What’s it like moving on from being a player to evaluating talent?

“With USA Basketball it’s fun. It’s a way to stay connected to the game,” he said. “It’s a new challenge… I don’t think we have enough tape to talk about my lens. You want good people and good players. You have that you’ll be alright.”