76ers forward Tobias Harris hosted a surprise “community draft” at Mastery Prep Elementary on Tuesday and announced a pledge of $1 million to assist nine under-served communities in Philadelphia.
Harris was traded to the Sixers in February and signed a five-year, $180 million deal to remain in Philadelphia in the summer.
“All my life I’ve been a person that has wanted to bring about change and wanted to do great things, not only in the profession, but outside of that in the community,” Harris said.
Speaking from a podium in the gymnasium, Harris listed two statistics that have shaped his willingness to give back:
Two-thirds of Philadelphia third graders can’t read at grade level, and by 2025, the shortage of qualified teachers will increase to over 50 percent.
“Today I plan on making steps that go beyond being a part of the conversation, but a part of the solution,” Harris said to those in attendance.
Harris introduced each organization as if they were being picked in the NBA Draft, going in reverse order from No. 9 down to No. 1. Upon their arrival at the podium, each community leader received a hat and a handshake from Harris.
The amounts received ranged from $25,000 (No. 9 pick) to $300,000 (No. 1 pick) between the nine organizations. The Center for Black Educator Development, which focuses on developing effective black educators, received the largest donation of $300,000.
“When we sat down and talked with them, it was a great organization, and I really loved what they were doing for African-American teachers and giving them the platform,” Harris said.
Harris has two programs of his own that are dedicated to solving education issues.
The Tobias’ Lit Labs focus on literacy education and will be used to encourage kids to get “lit” for literacy to improve their academic scores.
Tobias’ Top Teachers initative emphasizes teacher support, professional learning, and recruitment through partnerships.
Harris said that he will continue to monitor each non-profit partner and the process of the Philadelphia community leaders. The organizations that were donated to were mainly associated with Philadelphia because Harris said that “this is a place I want to make home.”
He also assisted organizations from others cities that he previously had ties to.
“I believe this is what’s expected when you’re a role model," Harris said. “The community and the organization work hand-in-hand, and I’ve always believed in that.”