(Photo credit Alia C. Covel)
By Alia C. Covel (reprinted from TAPinto article dated 10/16/21)
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — NBA legend Allan Houston brought The FISLL Project to Seton Hall University on Tuesday to continue the success of his foundation’s nationwide mentoring program.
SHU is a partner in South Orange’s Community Care and Justice Program, along with Essex County, and will utilize the mentoring program with youth from South Orange and Newark in conjunction with officers from the South Orange Police Department and the Newark Police Department.
Village Trustee and Health and Safety Committee Chair Donna Coallier moderated a panel of police officials, educators and an SHU student to speak about the importance of the project.
“FISLL and Allan Houston’s organization are 100 percent aligned with the values that are driving our Community Care and Justice Program,” Coallier told TAPinto SOMA. “This is launching a curriculum where our people and people from the city of Newark are going to learn about value-based decision-making and how to work together and create strength from those values.”
“Our goal is to amplify young people’s voices,” said panelist Dennis Carter, executive director of the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation. When their stories and struggles are heard, he said, “that’s what’s really going to make a difference.”
Two-time NBA Allstar Houston explained that he created FISLL in 2003 after speaking with his father — who coached Allan in college — about wanting to work on a project together to answer the question “what is our larger responsibility” after having achieved success on the court.
On a plane ride, he wrote down the five values that would become the foundation of the FISLL program: Faith, Integrity, Sacrifice, Leadership and Legacy. The project’s website says the program “can provide a foundation that enables young people to reach their full potential. Through a mentoring initiative, hands-on workshops, and our digital platform, the FISLL Project engages youth in guided dialogue and structured activities designed to build trust, teach valuable life skills, enhance spiritual growth, and defined success.”
Dr. Jamila Davis, Community Practitioner in Residence at SHU, is working on a companion curriculum to the program. The panelist noted that choice is important for students in keeping their interest and buoying their self-esteem. The program helps match the student with what their passions are. “When they tap into their talent, they tap into their confidence,” said Davis.
Panelist Lt. Ernesto Morillo of the South Orange Police Department said that the program is “an approach we can create together.” Morillo is the local lead for the FISLL program. Ten youths and 10 officers have already been selected, half from South Orange and half from Newark, and the cohort will have six virtual sessions, then a closing session on Nov. 30.
He also thanked the SOPD officers who came to the event to show their support: Det. Miguel Hunt, Lt. Eric Moore, and Ofc. Darrell Terry, Jr., who all grew up in South Orange; and Ofc. Niko Nasisi, a SHU alumnus who was hired by the SOPD just after graduation in 2019.
Houston was asked what advice he would give to local FISLL participants. “Show up, listen, and look,” he said. Showing up and being there is the first step in achieving anything, he said. One must be an active listener to learn, and look beyond what at first you think is possible.