MINNEAPOLIS — North Community High School in Minneapolis has experienced its share of heartache following the shooting death of student-athlete Deshaun Hill. Now the school's head basketball coach is sharing a positive message as the community continues to heal.
Jacob Butler, Martez Johnson, and Willie Wilson play varsity basketball. As much as they love the sport, they value their education.
"My education is like number one to me, most important to me," Johnson said.
"I've been taking AP classes since my freshman year," Butler added.
For some, the drive comes from their parents. It certainly comes from their coach, Larry McKenzie. He's coached 41 years total; the last nine years at North.
"What they do in the classroom is extremely important," McKenzie said. "The graduation rates for African-American males and the dropout rate for African-American males, often times those numbers aren't good."
When McKenzie got the job, he immediately looked up each student's grades. He says the team GPA at the time was under 2.0. Today though, the GPA is around 3.4 and 92% of the team is comprised of A/B Honor Roll students. So McKenzie shared the news on social media.
"In North Minneapolis, what tends to get told is the drama," he said. "The stuff that's happening out in the streets. I think it's important to celebrate these kids now before we have situations like we had here two weeks ago where we lose a 15-year-old."
February 9, football quarterback and student Deshaun Hill was shot and killed just blocks from school.
"We try to just really play in the name of him and like, everything we do, we just try to dedicate it to him because we know he was on the same mission and route we were on: sports, he was a great kid in school," Wilson said. "So we just try to keep his name alive."
The North Community High School Polars play the Washburn High School Millers Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Washburn High School.