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MJC to host annual African-American Education Conference
Coach Carter inspiration to provide keynote address
Coach Ken Carter
Ken Carter, who was the coach of the Richmond High School basketball program from 1997-2002 and the inspiration behind the movie Coach Carter will be the keynote speaker during the upcoming African American Education Conference at Modesto Junior College. - photo by Photo Contributed

A high school basketball coach who benched his entire team in hopes of getting them to improve their grades and whose story was the inspiration behind the 2005 film “Coach Carter” will be the keynote speaker during Modesto Junior College’s upcoming African-American Education Conference

 “I want people to understand that you must educate yourself, to be accountable, to have integrity, as well as empower them to move in the right direction,” said Ken Carter, who coached the Richmond High School basketball program from 1997 to 2002. “You have to be a great follower before you become a great leader. You have to be a part of the team.”

Carter made news when he locked out his undefeated varsity basketball team in order to push them to improve their grades. Carter not only closed the Richmond High School gym, but he banned all basketball-related activities and was prepared to cancel the entire season program, because 15 of the 45 players were not living up to the classroom achievements they agreed to meet in contracts they signed earlier in the semester. Carter is an advocate for Richmond’s youth and is active in his community, and recognizes the advantages inherent in a sound sports program.

In October 2000, Carter announced his plans to travel from Richmond High School to the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. Using only a kick scooter, Carter traveled for three days to Sacramento hoping to draw awareness to the deteriorating state of schools and the need for students, parents, teachers, and school board officials to commit to making a difference.  His efforts proved successful, and subsequently Richmond High received building enhancements and computers from the Office of the Secretary of Education.

Carter is owner and operator of Prime Time Publications and Prime Time Sports, as well as a motivational speaker and author.  His achievements have been recognized with Harvard Club’s Distinguished Secondary Educator Award, NAACP’s Impact Citizen of the Year Award, California State Lottery/Governor Gray Davis’ Heroes in Education Award, San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown’s Leadership Award, California’s Unsung Heroes Award, and the A.N.G. California Boy’s Coach of the Year Award.  He has been presented with a proclamation from the City of Richmond and was honored as a recipient of CityFlight Newsmagazine’s the “Ten Most Influential African Americans in the Bay Area” for 2000 in the sports category.

Carter’s address will be just one feature of MJC’s African-American Education Conference. Catered to students ages 13 to 21 and their parents, the free conference will be geared towards encouraging them to stay in school, plan for college and develop skills that will ensure student success. Throughout the day, participants will engage in workshops on civil rights history, attending MJC and leadership. Entertainment will include Sister Khemya and The Local Express Tour.

 “I think it’s crucial in our community to make sure students have a place to go where they feel welcomed and have a chance to be successful,” said Associate Dean of Campus Life and Student Learning Bryan Marks. “MJC has a long, long history of being an equitable and diverse institution, so attracting more students to our institution would be incredible.

“Some of these students could be thinking that college is not for them, but after hearing from Coach Carter and being exposed to MJC, hopefully they’ll understand college is absolutely for them,” continued Marks.

Although the African-American Education Conference has been a rooted tradition at MJC for at least 15 years, Marks said that this is the first year it was entirely planned and funded by the student body.

“Our office had traditionally done it through a committee, but students this year took it upon themselves,” said Marks. “ASMJC Senator Stephanie Pierce put the entire program together and she has done an amazing job. The event is fully funded by the student body. Every dollar is coming from them.”

The MJC African-American Education Conference is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 27 in the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Learning Center on West Campus, 2201 Blue Gum Avenue in Modesto. Check-in will begin at 8:30 a.m. Although conference admission and parking are free, pre-registration is required in order to guarantee participants a complimentary continental breakfast and lunch.

For more information or to register, call 575-6700 or email (include AAE Conference in the subject line) by Monday.