2016 gala honors literacy champions, teachers, students

Honorees King Rice, left, Lindsay Barra and Hubie Brown, right, with WoS Executive Director Byron Yake
WoS alumni at the 2016 gala at the The Newark Club's Metropolitan Room
Brown speaks to the crowd. (Photos by Michele Walsh)

The Write on Sports 11 th Anniversary Gala on Sept. 14 in Newark accomplished three things: celebrated teachers, honored three 2016 Literacy Champions and raised funds for the tuition-free programing WoS provides to middle school students.

In the past 11 years, more than 1,000 students have participated in WoS camps, workshops and after-school programs.

The mission of Write on Sports is to inspire students to write by writing about sports. A staff of over 40 teachers in three states carries out that mission and many attended the Gala.

Executive Director and WoS founder Byron Yake asked all teachers present, even those not in the WoS program, to stand and be recognized. “The thread that weaves so clearly around our three honorees tonight is the art and the craft of teaching…The success of WoS depends on the quality of teachers. Nothing is more important,” he said.

All three 2016 Write on Sports Literacy Champions - Lindsay Berra, King Rice and Hubie Brown - participated in WoS camps this past summer. Each is a teacher in his or her own profession - Lindsay as a journalist, King as a coach and Hubie as a broadcast analyst and former pro basketball coach.

“As I do in my yoga class, I’d like to say thank you to all my teachers, to all the kids at Write on Sports for letting me try to be a teacher…and to all of you for supporting Write on Sports, “ said Berra. “And as my grandpa Yogi would say, for making this night necessary.”

Rice echoed similar sentiments about those who have made an imprint on him. “So many great people in my life to help me along, to do the right thing,“ he said. “Being a teacher is the most awesome thing…It all goes back to the teachers that I had. So, if you are teacher, you have been given something special to these kids.”

Brown has a Master’s in Education and basketball has been his life as a teacher, coach and broadcaster for 60 years. He just signed a new two-year agreement with ABC/ESPN. He expressed how at this point in his life he was stillgrateful for being involved with young people.

“For me, it was an honor just to go to Monmouth (University Write on Sports camp) and have an opportunity to sit on one of the sessions with the students, be able to be interviewed by the students as well as a radio person and to get a true feel for what they are accomplishing. It was absolutely a great day for me” said Brown.

Before the dinner, six WoS 2016 students stood beside an enlarged poster of their print feature, and guests had the opportunity to speak with them and gain first-hand insight into their thinking about the stories and the WoS programs.

Several WoS alumni from previous programs attended with two speaking about the lasting impact the program has had on them. Kevin Lopez, a WoS participant in 2008, recently graduated from Princeton University.

“Little did I know that after I signed up for Write on Sports, I actually would be interested in writing… after I finished, I found this love for writing. More than just writing for fun, but writing for business or whatever that may be. I cannot stress enough how that has impacted my life. Write on Sports provided that avenue for me to express myself both inwriting and in speaking,” he said.

Each honoree was presented a personal, framed story by the student who wrote about them and their respective camp visit. The student author presented the award and introduced the honoree.

Jared Seegers introduced Berra and added his personal thoughts about being a student journalist. “Thank you to all the athletes. They take this time to come see us, to listen to our questions, listen to what we have to say and what we want to know; that we have the honor to write about them because we are amazed at what they do. I am very grateful to have gone here for two years, to be a part of this. Thank you to the teachers, to Write on Sports, everyone that came here. I’m honored to be here”.

WoS camp guests from all corners of the sports world are invited to participate in summer camps, and the evening’s honorees illustrated that goal well.

Peter King of MMQB.com, Sports Illustrated and a WoS director, was Master of Ceremonies for the fourth successive year.

WoS, a not-for- profit organization, receives funding from individuals, foundations and corporations. Students attend tuition free.

This year's honorees included:

Lindsay Berra - Berra is a national correspondent for MLB.com and appears frequently on the MLB Network. A former senior writer for ESPN Magazine, she's a graduate of the University of North Carolina. She's the oldest grandchild of the late Yogi and Carmen Berra and is a board member of the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center.

Hubie Brown - Brown is an NBA analyst for ESPN/ABC Sports whose basketball career encompasses 60 years. He was the head coach of four pro teams, including the New York Knicks. Twice he was named NBA Coach of the Year, including his first year at Memphis after a 16-year absence from coaching. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

King Rice - Rice is the head basketball coach at Monmouth University, where he led the Hawks to 28 wins, a program record, last year and a top seed in the NIT tournament. Rice's team won the regular season title in the MAAC with a 17-3 record and he was named MAAC Coach of the Year. The upcoming season will be his sixth at Monmouth after coaching at Vanderbilt for five years under Kevin Stallings.