FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne Community Schools welcomed a special guest to two of their events Thursday. Olympic gold medalist and WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings spent her morning inspiring volunteers tutors, and speaking the Kekionga middle school girls.
Catchings served as the guest speaker at the kick-off breakfast for FWCS’s Study Connection volunteer tutor program.
The program brings FWCS students to volunteer tutors for one hour a week. Study Connection began in 1989, and serves as a way for students to receive extra homework help and meet a mentor in the community.
This year Study Connection at FWCS has 600 volunteers, but they’re still looking for more.
As the guest speaker, Catchings urged those volunteers to be a dream catcher. She says this could be the difference between a child achieving their dream, or not.
“I think it’s really important, and obviously we can all go back to this age, and realize other people were here to help us to get to where we are. It’s almost like pay it forward, right? People paid it forward for us, as we get older it’s our chance, our opportunity to turn it back around and pay it forward for the next generation,” says Catchings.
Catchings then went to Kekionga Middle School to speak to 250 girls. She encouraged the students to dream B.I.G.: believe, inspire, and be great.
In both instances, Catchings shared her story of adversity. She spoke about the time she realized her hearing impairment made her different, so she threw away her hearing aids. In another instance, Catchings told the crowds her dream was to be in the NBA, because the WNBA did not exist.
“I think it’s important sometimes us females to have positive role models that look like us that can speak,” says Catchings.
“Be great. When she says, “don’t worry about it.” That’s what I do. When I first started, people keep saying, I play baseball. I was the only girl on the team. People kept saying, “Oh you’re not going to do it.” Now, I was the MVP, I was one of the best players,” says Ga’Naysia White, a student at Kekionga Middle School.
“Everything she says it makes me feel great about myself. Like it’s somebody out there that was really in my position once, so if she can do it, I can do it,” says Brandi Jones, a student at Kekionga Middle School.
Catchings also encouraged the girls to take this moment to choose their friends, not to have them choose you.
“I think this is the age that you really start shaping yourself into what you are, who you are like what you want to become. And it’s important to have the right group around you early. Because as you get older people come in and out, but I think this is the most impressionable age as far as being able to develop yourself into the person you want to be,” says Catchings.