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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Thank you, Indianapolis!

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Aleesia Johnson
Aleesia Johnson

The recent 2024 NBA All-Star game demonstrated to many Indianapolis residents and a national and global audience the positive attributes of Indianapolis Public Schools. I was honored to serve as a member of the Board of Directors, composed of community and civic leaders determined to have Indianapolis make an indelible mark as the host of the NBA All-Star game.

 Throughout the weekend, IPS alumni helped make the event memorable. Our proud alumni — including Mike Epps, George Hill, Trey Lyles, Vivica Fox, and Oscar Robertson — all contributed to a weekend of events that truly placed Indianapolis front and center for the state, the nation, and in fact, globally. Each gave their time and talents to support various events that reflected our community’s diversity.

 Thanks to Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds — a supporter of Indianapolis Public Schools — for speaking with our students at Carl Wilde School 79 and surprising them with gifts of musical instruments through the national Music Will program. His words of encouragement did reach our students and will make a positive impact on their futures. Thank you to the NBA Moms (mothers of NBA players) for donating shoes and other items to support our students at Anna Brochhausen School 88. The Christamore House, where IPS School Board member Diane Arnold devoted countless hours to make a difference, was the beneficiary of remodeled facilities and a visit by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Pacers owner Herb Simon and countless community supporters and advocates for IPS.  

 From the very beginning, IPS was involved. Hundreds of our students participated in the “Love Letters to Basketball” initiative, writing postcards that greeted our guests upon arrival to our city. More than one hundred students, staff, and alumni attended the NBA Opening Ceremony event on Thursday, where our Crispus Attucks High School was highlighted. This event also included a performance by our IPS All-City Band (supported by students from our schools) and the unveiling of the Oscar Robertson statue that’s being created and will be placed outside of Crispus Attucks High School (his alma mater) upon its completion. On Friday, we participated in honoring Oscar Robertson during a tribute to “The Big O” hosted by Radio One. 

 During NBA All-Star weekend, we held a special showing of “A Touch of Glory,” a play about the 1955 state championship team from Crispus Attucks. Written by Laura Town and produced by GangGang and Deborah Asante & Artists, the play — which had a multiple-week run — was attended by a record number of attendees. That 1955 state championship team from IPS’s Crispus Attucks High School was the first all-Black basketball team to win an Indiana state basketball championship. Those team members, which included Oscar Robertson, overcame considerable societal odds to perform with class and competition on the court. They remain role models in overcoming adversity and are a tribute to diversity.

 In addition, our students participated in an e-sports program at Butler University to get first-hand experience with the program and to consider majoring in that area. Students at Arlington and Harshman Middle Schools participated in the NBA G League Sneakerverse PL(AI)GROUND event, where they had the opportunity to create sneakers using artificial intelligence (AI), an awesome STEM opportunity for these future alumni. Our students also participated in basketball clinics and camps while our coaches received additional training on techniques and successful coaching. Finally, throughout NBA All-Star weekend, we received numerous surprise donations from companies and organizations to support our students.  

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” He is right. We are proud to be a part of creating a special All-Star weekend and grateful that, in turn, our Indianapolis community embraced our students and showed why we are proud each day to say, “I am IPS!” Thank you, Indianapolis for believing in and investing in the 31,000 students enrolled in our Indianapolis Public Schools. That is a true Return on Investment (ROI) for Indianapolis’ and Indiana’s future.

Dr. Aleesia Johnson


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