SEEN Porter-Billups Lead­er­ship Academy Gala

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Joanne Davidson Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, par­ti­writer@hot­mail.com and @joanne­david­son on Twit­ter

Lon­nie Porter. Chauncey Billups. Ty­ronn Lue.

Each of them rose from hum­ble be­gin­nings to achieve the suc­cess of which dreams are made: Porter as the win­ningest col­lege basketball coach in Colorado his­tory and one of only 12 ac­tive coaches to have reached 500 ca­reer wins; Billups as a for­mer Na­tional Basketball As­so­ci­a­tion All-Star who is now serv­ing as an NBA an­a­lyst for ESPN, and Lue as a point guard who helped take the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers to two NBA cham­pi­onships be­fore be­ing named head coach of the Cleve­land Cava­liers. On June 19, 2016, the rookie head coach led the Cavs to their first NBA cham­pi­onship.

The three long­time friends are also ex­cel­lent role mod­els for the 178 young­sters en­rolled in the Porter-Billups Lead­er­ship Academy. Billups, a Den­ver na­tive, be­came ac­tively in­volved in the sum­mer pro­gram that Porter and his daugh­ter, Den­ver’s 2007 Teacher of the Year Staci Porter-Bent­ley, started in 1996 on the cam­pus of Regis Univer­sity.

Lue, who has been best friends with Billups since they met as teenagers while play­ing in an AAU tour­na­ment in Cal­i­for­nia, was the key­note speaker for the PBLA’s fundrais­ing gala held July 22 at the Ritz-Carl­ton Den­ver.

“We were 16 or 17,” Lue re­called. “I talked a lot of trash, and he was a lowkey guy, but we hit it off and have been best friends since that day.”

In a ques­tion-and-an­swer pre­sen­ta­tion led by mis­tress of cer­e­monies Susie War­gin, Lue re­called grow­ing up in a small town — Mex­ico, Mo. — and hav­ing the good fortune to have been able to par­lay his skill on the basketball court into a ca­reer that oth­ers can only dream of.

Still, he en­cour­aged the young peo­ple in the au­di­ence to “Be who you are be­cause not ev­ery­one can be a doc­tor, a lawyer or in the NBA. If your ta­lent is fix­ing cars, be the best me­chanic you can be. We all have choices, so be sure you make the right ones.”

Porter and his daugh­ter started what is now the Porter-Billups Lead­er­ship Academy in 1996. For three weeks that sum­mer, 22 el­e­men­tary school-aged chil­dren from the in­ner city re­ceived train­ing in lead­er­ship skills, crit­i­cal think­ing, team­work and con­flict res­o­lu­tion in classes held on the Regis Univer­sity cam­pus.

Billups joined Porter and his daugh­ter in 2006, work­ing to help them achieve their goal of help­ing at-risk kids see ed­u­ca­tion as a path to suc­cess.

To­day, the PBLA has 178 stu­dents, and 98.5 per­cent of the 135 PBLA alumni have grad­u­ated from high school on sched­ule. Mem­bers of the PBLA Class of 2016 grad­u­ated with an av­er­age GPA of 3.1 and an av­er­age ACT score of 20. Ap­prox­i­mately 79 per­cent of the PBLA alums have pur­sued some form of post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion; 26 have re­ceived de­grees from Regis Univer­sity.

“We had such a grand vi­sion for this,” Lon­nie Porter said. “We wanted to re­place the cy­cle of poverty with the op­por­tu­nity of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. It’s hum­bling to see how far we have come.”

PBLA grad­u­ates, Staci Porter-Bent­ley noted, have gone on to be­come Den­ver po­lice of­fi­cers, nurses, ed­u­ca­tors and med­i­cal doc­tors. “We helped take care of them and now they’re the ones who are go­ing to be tak­ing care of us.”

Since 2002 the PBLA has awarded 56 schol­ar­ships, to­tal­ing $2 mil­lion, for post-se­condary ed­u­ca­tion. The 2017 MillerCoors Schol­ar­ship, a $5,000 grant, went to Jose Sanchez, a PBLA alum who is ma­jor­ing in chem­istry at Regis with the goal of be­com­ing a doc­tor.

Glo­ria Schoch, the com­pany’s pub­lic af­fairs man­ager, pre­sented the schol­ar­ship to Sanchez.

She was at the gala with her hus­band, Sean Walsh, join­ing a crowd that also in­cluded Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock and his wife, Mary Louise Lee; and Randy Hol­l­i­day and Donna Ogorek, co-chairs of the PBLA ad­vi­sory board.

Panorama Or­tho­pe­dic and Spine Cen­ter, Short­line Auto Group and Sooper Credit Union were the gala’s pre­sent­ing spon­sors. Panorama’s Dr. Mitchell See­mann pre­sented the PBLA with a check for $60,735, rep­re­sent­ing pro- ceeds from an an­nual golf tour­na­ment, while Short­line’s Don and Lau­rie Hicks gave the PBLA a check for $32,817, money gen­er­ated from one of their deal­er­ship sales pro­mo­tions.

Oth­ers tak­ing part in the fes­tiv­i­ties were fed­eral judge Wi­ley Daniel and his wife, Ida; Ryan Ross, pres­i­dent/CEO of the Ur­ban Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion of Colorado, and his wife, Simone, an ex­ec­u­tive with Delta Den­tal; Jim Pinto, founder of Red Rocks Law; Marti Awad, found­ing part­ner of Car­dan Cap­i­tal Part­ners; Bill Fortune; Faye and Dr. Regi­nald Wash­ing­ton; Eula Adams; Bar­bara and Chuck Wil­liams; Alicia Har­vey; Aquilla McKnight; Glo­ria Neal and Amani Ali; Wil and Roz Al­ston; and Wil­lie Kel­lum and Dr. Bev­erly An­der­son, who were honored for their long­stand­ing sup­port of the PBLA.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Pete Bent­ley and Staci Porter-Bent­ley, co-founder and direc­tor of the PorterBillups Lead­er­ship Academy.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Lon­nie Porter, Ty­ronn Lue, Sunny Porter, and Piper and Chauncey Billups.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Glo­ria Schoch, rep­re­sent­ing MillerCoors, with the Sanchez fam­ily: Ar­mando, Jose (MillerCoors PBA Schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent), and Eva.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Don and Lau­rie Hicks with Roz and Wil Al­ston.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Bob Sancetta, Randy Hol­l­i­day, Donna Ogorek and Tim Brown.

Steve Peter­son, Ter­raChroma.com

Marc and Gail Wal­lace with Bill Brab­ble.

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