By Heather Aldrich
On first glance it may seem as if Fresh Coast Classic is merely a basketball tournament, but upon closer inspection, it’s clear that basketball is simply one of the many tools that The Running Rebels Community Organization utilizes to bring mentors into teenager’s lives.
Their formula for success is simple: draw teens in, cultivate them, give them (or help them to get) scholarships, teach them to give back, and repeat. The result is a pyramid effect creating dozens of black, college-educated adults from at-risk neighborhoods who go on to mentor, becoming ”Rebels for Life.” The Fresh Coast Classic is simply one of the celebrations along the way that exposes youth to the legacy of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and more mentors.
Branden Joseph is one of many Fresh Coast Classic Success stories and a living example of the Running Rebels “Rebel for Life” philosophy. As Branden tells it, “Growing up in a neighborhood, it was very easy to be persuaded to partake in stealing cars, selling drugs, and joining a gang. The Running Rebels gave me an alternative to participate in something that was positive and full of purpose.”
Beginning in 3rd grade and throughout his teen years Brandon played in Running Rebels leagues and in the Fresh Coast Basketball Classic. “I truly established a sense of direction in which I carried with me to every tournament I went to and in each and every game that I played in.” says Branden. “The person who influenced me most as a Running Rebel had to be Victor Barnett. Victor utilized basketball as something we would learn life lessons from. His vision was to create young men that come out of this community and give back. Basketball is definitely my passion because it provides a learning tool for youth that we work with today. I use a coaching approach, which is helping youth make positive choices on and off the court”
When asked about mentoring Branden responded, “Words cannot explain the feeling I get when I make a difference in a young persons life. I just have a passion for seeing people overcome obstacles learning it and getting it and that’s the reason why I get up and give back each and every day. This was what was instilled in us at an early age and its what I believe I was put on earth to do.”
Branden earned a scholarship and played Division 2 for Central State University an HBCU located in (Wilberforce, Ohio) where he became a Top 20 HBCU basketball all-star. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and returned to Milwaukee so that he could give back to his community. He now works for the Running Rebels coaching basketball and mentoring youth through the Violence Free Zone Program. “Operating by passion and living a purpose filled life are two values that Victor Barnett taught me and this is why I strive to carry on the legacy that was introduced to me at 8 years old.”
The 2011 Fresh Coast Classic
The Fresh Coast Classic will launch Wed., Nov. 23 with a college fair at the Harley Davison Museum and will feature over 50 exhibitors including the U.S. Dept. of Student Financial Aid, the United Negro College Fund, Dynamic Education/Job Corps, “Big Step…” Buildings and Trades Program and Military Services Branches – interactive – US Air – National Guard, US National Guard, USMC50. The fair is free and open to the public. Parents and adult learners are encouraged to attend from 3 until 7pm.
The 2011 Fresh Coast Basketball Classic will include a tournament featuring Historically Black Universities and a high school showcase featuring top Milwaukee City Conference teams matched up against top area suburban schools. All games will be played at Wisconsin Lutheran College and take place on Friday, Nov. 25 and Sat., the 26. Four Historically Black Universities; Bowie State, Cheyney, Fisk and Lincoln will compete for a championship title. During the college tournament fans will have an opportunity to win one of four 40” HD TVs and over 150 Walmart gift cards, just in time for the holidays.
Eight high school games will feature some of the top metro-area prep teams including: Arrowhead, Bradley Tech, Brown Deer, Hamilton, Hamilton-Sussex, Kettle-Moraine, Morse-Marshall, Mukwonago, Racine Case (girls), Riverside, Rufus King, Roncalli, South Division, Vincent (girls), Washington, and Whitnall. Everyone is encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item for The Hunger Task Force to receive $1 off admission. The 2011 Fresh Coast Classic major sponsors include the Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, The Mandel Group, The Evinrude Foundation, We Energies, Community Financial Services and Walmart.