Photo: Ethan Miller/ Staff via Getty Images
  /  03.03.2023

Former NBA star Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal has teamed up with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office Foundation to launch a new program, which will strive to continue empowering young students, law enforcement officials announced Thursday (March 2). “Setting up Students for Success” is a nine-month curriculum for middle school students between 11 and 14. Through different aspects of life, the program’s main priority is to guide and develop their social and emotional skills while also providing influence from good role models. “Oftentimes, the youth are just fighting to be heard,” Sheriff Reginald B. Scandrett stated, according to 11 Alive. “We want to provide as many resources as possible to our young people and hopefully help set them on a path that leads to success.”

The mentorship program will also feature a parental component to empower and engage parents. Its purpose is to offer insights to help close the communication gap between parents and their children. According to its site, the foundation also has an annual sports camp that teaches “the fundamentals of various sports with a strong focus on sportsmanship and teamwork.”

Shaq is a sports analyst on “NBA on TNT,” based in Atlanta, Georgia. For years, he has called the southern state one of his homes and has made it a point to be active within its communities. In 2021, the former Los Angeles Lakers star was appointed director of community relations for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. “As we build this team and if I can use the NBA as a reference point, you’ve got to always make sure you have the right big man,” Sheriff Scandrett said of the new venture. “I believe and know that we have one of the best big men in the business.”

“This is a very specific, strategic plan that’s going to be fluid along the way, and we’re going to make sure that we sort of attack everyone that needs the help along the way, the mentorship along the way. Someone helped us — very challenged youth along the way — and if we can do that to someone, we can change not only Henry County but change recidivism and change the state of Georgia and subsequently change these United States,” he continued.

According to FOX 5 Atlanta, the announcement occurred outside of A Friend’s House, an emergency shelter for youth crisis located just across from the sheriff’s office. At that time, Shaq revealed through a deal with Pepsi that he planned to upgrade the facility with new furniture and additional equipment. He also noted that some of his community efforts would remain unpublicized while others would be available.

“When they walk in there, I want them to feel like I’m their father — luxury beds, luxury furniture, nice paint, artwork,” Shaq stated. “There’s a gaming place around the corner. I’m about to go there and rack up on games. I want these kids to be able to feel good about themselves. When I do stuff like this, I never want credit ’cause it’s all about making my mother smile when she watches this tonight. It’s about making my daughters proud. It’s about making my sons proud. It’s about making everybody proud.” 



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