Middle school students look up to Jamil Lott, Arts ’07— literally and figuratively.
The 6-foot-7 former Marquette basketball player uses his height and heart to make a difference for eighth-graders at Washington Technology Magnet, a secondary school in St. Paul, Minn.
Lott is one of the school’s behavioral specialists. He describes his role as a disciplinarian and mentor for many students who struggle with poverty, unstable homes and violence. “The world puts these kids in a box,” Lott says. “When you have the chance to step out of that box, it’s mind-blowing to them.”
Day after day, Lott strives to open the box for his kids. He spends school hours escorting students to class on time, de-escalating fights, assisting teachers and making sure his students learn to respect others. His day doesn’t necessarily stop when the dismissal bell rings. Whether it’s visiting parents, catching a school theatre show or popping by the local rec center gym, Lott tries to be a constant presence and role model in his students’ lives. He often wears a shirt and tie to school to demonstrate professionalism, and he even rides his bicycle to work to dispel any “un-coolness” about being healthy or using environmentally friendly transportation.
“These kids are young and can hardly see beyond popularity and looks,” Lott says. “I try to shed light onto a world many of them won’t see until they get out and go to college.”
For many of his students, college seems like an unreachable dream. Lott, who earned a full-ride scholarship after growing up in the same Minnesota neighborhood, is living proof that advanced education is definitely possible — but it’s no walk in the park. Lott emphasizes to students that success takes a lot of hard work and discipline, two traits he learned during his time at Marquette.
“There was no cutting corners in terms of being up early, going to events, class and practice,” Lott recalls. “I’ve never worked that hard … until now.” — JB
Photo by Scott Takushi. Reprinted with permission St. Paul Pioneer Press.