The Commercial Appeal, March 29, 2016
By Emily Adams Keplinger, Special to the Weekly
Under the umbrella of Memphis Athletic Ministries, former Memphis Tiger basketball player Detric Golden has founded a discipleship program called the A-Team. Detric Golden describes it as taking kids “from gangs to grads.” The intent is to have a positive impact on at-risk teenagers at Northwest Prep Academy in the Crosstown area of Memphis.
“These young people lack appropriate adult role models in their lives to assist them with setting constructive life goals and keeping them on a path to achieve them,” explained Golden. “A-Team is designed to influence and encourage these students.”
Having been raised in Hurt Village, Golden connected with Memphis Athletic Ministries in 2009 when the organization took over four of the city’s community centers (Bethel LaBelle, Greenlaw, Hamilton and Magnolia). He and his wife, April, had already founded Golden Child Ministries eight years earlier at Greenlaw. With the acquisition, he became the center’s director and his wife became the assistant director for Memphis Athletic Ministries at the Greenlaw center.
Using a ranking system similar to the hierarchy found in gangs, Golden has different levels and roles for members of his A-Team. Ranks such as recruits, foot soldiers, enforcers, officers and lieutenants hold different responsibilities within the group. To become a prospective member of the A-Team, a student has to be recommended by someone who is already a member. Officers and/or lieutenants talk with prospects and if approved, the newcomers are given a probationary period where they have to prove themselves. The proving ground is all positive — respect for teachers, no truancy, not getting into trouble, etc.
“These steps can be a struggle for students, especially if they have already developed a pattern of having trouble with authority figures,” said Golden. “But, for many of these students, this is the point where they begin to turn their lives around.”
Much like waiting for a turn to get to play on a basketball court, the program has 20 youths on its rosters, with more students wanting to rotate in. Golden has set a limit of 20 students so that he can give the kids what they need from him. A-Team members enter into an accelerated academic track that offers a chance to bring them back up to grade level. The program also offers three graduations per calendar year; the traditional graduation time in May, as well as graduations in July and in December. As students graduate from high school, they also graduate from the A-Team, leaving openings for others to rotate into the program.
Golden uses after-school recreation and organized sports as a means to engage the students, then branches out into academic enrichment, career readiness, Bible studies and discipleship training. He is raising money for the A-Team through Memphis Athletic Ministries. And he has found an anonymous foundation that matches 100% of every dollar raised, up to $50K. Donations can be made through www.ateamemphis.org, just click the “Donate” button at the top of the home page.
“Each of the program’s components are intentionally designed to help our youth develop into Christ-centered, productive adults who positively impact their families, their neighborhoods and our city as a whole,” said Anne Chambers, communications director for Memphis Athletic Ministries.
Golden is at Northwest Prep Academy every day, using basketball as an entry point to connect with the students in order to give them Godly direction, hoping to help them change their lives.
“Problems like teen crime, truancy and dropping out of school are everyday occurrences for many of these students,” explained Chambers. “But coming to school with a chance to hang out with Golden, a basketball player who had an option to go pro and play with the NBA…well, which do you think has the greatest ‘cool’ factor? Golden does, of course.”