In 2013, Jared Young decided he needed to spend time away from York.
His father had passed away from a heart attack the previous year. He needed to clear his head, and having earned the opportunity to attend a prestigious boarding school in Washington, D.C., he decided it was best to leave his hometown for his high school years.
He became a varsity basketball player and honor roll student at Episcopal High School and is entering his senior year at Princeton University. He’s earned scholarships with multiple Fortune 500 companies and has a post-graduation job lined up with McKinsey & Co.
And last Tuesday night, he was at York Township Park teaching kids the fundamental aspects of basketball.
“My mom still lives here, works at the hospital,” he said about his continued connection to York. “This is obviously the place that made me.
“When I left, I didn’t forget about the issues of our community. Gun violence, drug abuse, you name it. There are endless issues.”
Since the beginning of this summer, Young and a group of friends have been working to address those issues by mentoring kids in the York community through basketball.
They’ve created a nonprofit called the See More Good Foundation — S.M.G for short. The seven founding members include former York Catholic basketball star and current Division I Monmouth player Melik Martin, and former York Country Day star and current Division II St. Michael’s College player Jalen Gorham. Former York Catholic player Jaime Orr is also a leading member.
The organization has been holding weekly basketball camps for kids, first at Voni Grimes Gym and now at various outdoor locations due to COVID-19 concerns. In addition to teaching kids about basketball, the group is also holding lessons about financial literacy.
S.M.G. is still in its early stages, but its founders have already found a corporate sponsor in BLK Capital and are looking for educational partnerships for the upcoming school year.
The ultimate goal: Help kids in York have a better future than those who came before them.
“Unfortunately I think we’re dealing with a lot of the same issues here,” Young said of the current state of York. “I think that’s indicative of where we are as a country, not just as a community.
“There’s a lot of great community leaders that have been here before us. But no one man can do it.”
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Young and Orr began the planning stages of S.M.G in February, and the nonprofit was officially launched in June.
Young, Orr and Martin all said that the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor this year — and the ongoing conversation about racial injustice in the United States — have further motivated them to help out inner-city kids.
But they all said that their mission is something they’ve been thinking about for a few years, dating back to when they would play pickup basketball together in the summer during their high school days.
They were initially driven to help mentor kids in York after seeing some of their own idols killed in their youth. Young pointed to the deaths of local former basketball players C.J. Smith, Da’Keem Dennison and NaGus Griggs, all of whom were shot, as moments that have stayed with him over the years.
“The list goes on and on,” Young said, “Of talented players that we grew up watching and were our role models, either ending up in jail or unfortunately passing away.”
Orr, who is now a business administration major at Central Penn College, said his own experiences growing up in York fueled a desire to make things better for the younger generation.
He said he was around drugs and his family didn’t have much money. Because of those struggles, he’s still learning how to save and spend money wisely since it wasn’t something he knew much about as a kid.
He knows many kids in the community are in the same situation.
“There was a time when I was going through a lot, and I want to see the kids do better in life,” Orr said. “And not grow up the way I grew up.
“We want them to have somewhere they can feel safe, instead of being at home or being on the streets.”
Mixing basketball and finance
Even as an emerging star at York Catholic, Melik Martin didn’t think of basketball as a ticket to a better future.
Then he received his first scholarship offer to Lincoln University.
Despite being young for his grade, Martin earned an offer from Division I Monmouth after an outstanding senior season for the Irish. The 6-foot-6 forward has developed into a solid role player for the Hawks the past three seasons. He hopes to have a future in basketball beyond college.
“I was given an opportunity,” said Martin, who lived in Phoenix and Philadelphia before moving to York as a kid. “I never really saw basketball as my way … Then someone told me basketball could get me a scholarship and I’d go to school for free.
“I was already going hard anyway, then I knew I might as well perfect the craft. I’m really blessed to where I am today.”
Basketball has bonded the founders of S.M.G since they were kids playing pickup games at the York Jewish Community Center or other local parks.
And while a few of them like Martin and Gorham have gone on to play in college, not all of them have. Orr initially played at Central Penn but is now focused on academics. Young plays club basketball and is a practice player for the women’s team at Princeton.
They think that mix is good for the kids they’re now working with, who get to see that sports can help them in life, but likely won’t be the final stage of their careers.
“Basketball is a good microcosm for life,” Young said. “A lot of times kids think that basketball is more fun than school, when in reality I would say that basketball is quite harder. You have to be genetically gifted, there’s a lot more variables that are weighing on whether you’re successful. Where in school it’s a lot more straight-forward.
“Part of this program is teaching them life skills they wouldn’t get in school. Teaching them about work ethic and resilience and understanding that life is about odds and taking calculated risks.”
The organization has been holding sessions at least once a week this summer, often with more than 30 kids — ranging from elementary school to high school — in attendance.
The sessions largely focus on basketball skills but finish with lessons on financial literacy. The group has also held interviews on its social media pages with other local athletes discussing their experiences growing up.
The financial topics the group discusses include how to save money and set up a bank account. Young said he wants to eventually teach kids about investments and the stock market.
“The key is you have to embrace what you don’t understand,” Young said. “And lean into the discomfort of talking about money. What does it mean to buy something you want vs. something you need? What does it mean to save with intention?”
Added Martin: “When we have financial literacy lessons, I listen in. We all need that knowledge. We’re all giving and taking from each other.”
The group’s session last Tuesday at York Township featured mostly young boys with one young girl in attendance. All of them were Black. However, S.M.G.’s founders — who are also all Black — said that most of their events have been more diverse with a number of white kids in attendance. They’ve also held a couple camps specifically for girls’ players.
They think expanding that diversity will be important moving forward. Not only do they want to help all kids, but they believe it’s important for people from different backgrounds to learn how to work together.
“We’re Black but we’re not turning anybody away,” said Martin. “We’ve had kids from York Suburban, from Dover, from all around the county. We want to help anybody who wants to listen.”
Added Young: “If you think of racism and sexism, a lot of it stems from ignorance and not really intermingling with people who are different than you are. What makes basketball beautiful is that anybody can play it.
“We’re entirely open to anybody coming out and I think that’s how we begin to dismantle racism, sexism and other horrible things.”
Making their mentors proud
Martin, Orr and Young all said they believe it’s extremely important for kids to have strong adult role models in their lives.
It’s a big part of why they started S.M.G.
Orr credited former Boys’ Club of York basketball coach Rodney Washington — who died in March — as a major influence in his life. Martin pointed to both of his parents as role models.
Young has a wide circle of father figures.
His own father, Jay Young, died at the age of 50. Jared was just 12 years old at the time, and was the one who discovered his father’s body.
In the aftermath, a group of his father’s best friends made a pact to always be there for Jared and keep him on the right path as he headed off to boarding school. They would text him Bible quotes. They took him to AAU basketball tournaments and taught him to drive.
When he graduated from Episcopal High School, they were all in attendance.
Their influence taught Jared the importance of paying it forward — and reinforced the lessons his father taught him.
“It speaks to the power of my dad as a person,” said Young, who added his father taught him to read and was known for his catchy and wise sayings. “They way they felt compelled to always help me out says a lot. I can’t speak enough to the fact that my dad was a tremendous man who is sorely missed. I think about him every day.
“My dad grew up without his dad and he was adamant about being a great father. It’s going to take more people like me to continue that trend.”
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Young already has a career in business lined up and he hopes to get his masters degree and eventually transition into sports management. But he plans to continue expanding S.M.G. along with the current founders.
The group is already working on forming tutoring partnerships with Sylvan Learning and Kumon for the fall, and setting up a York chapter of Girls Who Code. They’d like to eventually expand the organization beyond York County.
They know all of the communities problems won’t be solved by them alone. But they hope their efforts to help kids will have a ripple effect, similar to how their mentors inspired them.
“It’s about consistency and diving in,” Young said. “A lot of people are apprehensive and think, ‘I’m one person, I can’t facilitate change.’ Well, we had an idea and we acted on it.
“The one key I would say to making change consistent and across the board is having people dive in. Put their fear of failure to the side and embrace that you might not know everything, but you’ll eventually figure it out.”
“It takes a village,” Martin added. “This is all a learning experience. We show up every day and try to figure out and make the best opportunity for them.”
Matt Allibone is a sports reporter for GameTimePA. He can be reached at 717-881-8221, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bad2theallibone.
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