At-risk students,Jay Feaster,Mentorship

Lightning's Brown mentors at-risk kids in team outreach program (w/ video)

December 26, 2016
in Kids

TAMPA — J.T. Brown can be an enforcer on the ice as one of the Lightning's top fighters. But on a recent Monday, Brown, 26, found himself keeping some seventh-graders accountable during a spirited game of Monopoly at Webb Middle School. "I'm the banker," Brown said, smiling. Brown is also a mentor and hockey coach to the 36 at-risk kids in the Lightning's "Guide the Thunder" program. Especially for the black students, Brown is a relatable example. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth star is one of about 30 black players in the NHL. "They can see myself and think, 'Well, maybe I can do that,' " Brown said. The program's goal is not to produce first-round draft picks, but rather help some of the kids be the first in their family to go to college. Most are from low-income, single-parent homes. Many had never skated or picked up a stick before the initiative began in August. It runs every Monday through the school year at Webb or Pierce Middle School, and is funded by the NHL and the NHL Players Association. Before taking the kids on the ice, Brown and his wife, Lexi, help them with their schoolwork. "Some of their homework is harder than you think, I'm not going to lie," Brown said. It's the kind of hands-on approach to working on racial issues that Brown prefers more than any protest. When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the national anthem this season, sparking a discussion of racial issues, Brown spoke out, too. Brown took issue on Twitter with U.S. World Cup coach John Tortorella saying he'd bench any player who sat during the anthem at the September tournament. Brown later said that his response came from his "reality" as a black athlete in the NHL and he didn't want "young minorities who love the game of hockey to think what's going on in America today is going unnoticed by the hockey community." Brown said he hoped to find ways other than protests to impact the community and bring awareness to racial issues. He and Lexi, expecting their first child (a girl) in June, plan to start their own charity or foundation. For now, J.T.'s involvement with Guide the Thunder is a...

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