It all came together on Saturday.
Back when he was just a four-star wide receiver in the Class of 2006 at Morgan Park, Chris James, along with several of his Chicago Public League friends at that time, had a plan.
"We just wanted to always give back," James said. "I just wasn't totally prepared for college once I started at Illinois and the other CPL guys who also went to college all felt the same. I always wanted to help out the kids and the families as much as I could help them."
James and his HeroH Foundation hosted a seminar at King High School and then headed over to nearby Jackson Park for a football camp. This first-ever event hosted nearly 250 kids (which charged just $5 per camper) in the afternoon session at Jackson Park. While the football portion of the camp was a success, the real benefit from this event on Saturday came in the morning session at King.
Several of the HeroH Foundation staff — which also included current NFL and former Simeon players Nate Palmer, Martez Wilson and King's Jeff Allen — sat in small group sessions and talked honestly about life and focused on HeroH's message of the importance of punctuality, discipline, work ethic and accountability.
"It's all about making sacrifices," Wilson said. "You have to discipline yourself in everything from the field to the class room. I wanted to make a better life for myself and hanging out and partying all the time wasn't the way. You have to learn to be accountable for your actions."
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"The biggest thing I would change if I could go back to high school are my study habits," Palmer said. "I just had no real study habits at all."
Another important focus of the HeroH Foundation mission is to provide academic support and guidance.
On Saturday, University of Illinois Learning Advisor Carla Suber, who has worked first-hand with Chris James, along with several of the HeroH staff while at Illinois, gave a presentation on overall academics to parents and players. Several of the staff also talked about having to face college level classes and academics.
"So many kids and especially the parents need to have this important information on the NCAA requirements and the importance of grades as soon as possible," James said. "Unfortunately kids and parents are just starting to find out after junior year what is required to get into college too late. I'm hoping that at least some of the kids and parents walked away with a better idea on what they need to focus on academically."
Look for the HeroH Foundation— and its mission of providing training and support — both on the field and in the classroom to continue to grow and develop.
"We are in the process of putting together several initiatives," James said. "We are developing an online database that will point people in the right direction when it comes to academics. The database will provide a free listing of tutors to programs that support and help kids academically. It's something I've always wanted to do and it's something I wish I had when I was in high school."