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As part of his mandate to make the Charlotte Bobcats more involved in community projects, team owner and basketball legend Michael Jordan made three appearances at three high schools in three hours and distributed cash gifts and scholarship programs.
Jordan personally handed a $200,000 gift that will pay the $1,200 cost for 166 kids to be enrolled in Y Achievers for a year at West Charlotte, West Mecklenburg and Vance high schools.
Jordan also handed out scholarship worth $5,000 to one aspiring student at each school and then he unveiled a new program that will have six students from Y Achievers doing paid summer internships with the team.
Meanwhile, all the Bobcats players and the organization's staff fanned out for a day of service at six Charlotte-Mecklenburg elementary and middle schools.
"It would be easy to send people to the schools to do this for me, but it means more to the community when they see you taking the lead in the charge," said Jordan.
"I think this is about leadership. It's about showing that my words are not hollow. It's true to the heart that this is how I feel about giving back," he added.
The effort might also help Jordan's struggling franchise build a following locally as crowds have been sparse in recent years for a team that currently has just 16 wins and the NBA's worst record.
"Yes, community service doesn't help you win," Jordan said, "but win or lose, it gives you that heart beat that comes from being a part of the community."
Jordan recently hired an executive, Kim Henderson, to rebuild the Bobcats' community affairs department, which was stopped in 2008 due to lay-offs.
In recent years, the Bobcats have earned the reputation for anemic community involvement efforts, compared to the Carolina Panthers, who have built a reputation for helping out of the spotlight.
Henderson, the new community affairs leader, says her once-nonexistent department now has a staff of four.
"Community involvement is now a mandate," says Henderson, who was previously director of corporate relations at Presbyterian Hospital/Novant Health.
"And we're being very thoughtful about how we can make a meaningful impact. If folks don't know about a program, we can be a champion for its cause," she added.
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Michael Jordan Visits Schools, Distributes Scholarships to Students