Being named a “Most Valuable Player” or “MVP” is a recognition few get to experience outside the sports arena, but Tilden Career Community Academy High School senior, Devonte Sims, can consider himself just that as one of 25 winners of the “2012 Sprite Chicago MVPs: Celebrating the Top African American Males” program.
The program honors African American males in the Chicagoland community who meet certain criteria regarding their GPA, community service activities and essay-writing abilities. Sims and the other honorees were treated to a luncheon hosted by the Chicago Bulls and Sprite in February and received a variety of prizes. Sims also attended a Bulls game and was able to warm up with the team before the game. As a self-described major sports fan, Sims plays both football and basketball at Tilden and loves watching ESPN and other sports networks.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience was made possible by Chantelle Peterson, Tilden school counselor, who encouraged Sims and his classmates to enter the contest. To Sims, it seemed like an amazing opportunity that he was not going to let pass by.
“I asked my students to write an essay for the contest. While many of the students resisted, Devonte was the first one to turn in his work and well before the deadline. He even followed up with me to make sure I got it. For him to take the time to ensure that I received his essay really made him stand out to me as a student,” said Peterson.
It hasn’t always been easy for Sims, according to Peterson. “Devonte reaches for the stars no matter what problems he has in his life. Honestly, he could have given up, but he stepped up to the plate and became a leader. He has even put younger students on the right track by doing positive things. Students look up to him and he is a role model for them to see that hard work pays off,” she explained.
Sims knows the importance of doing well in the classroom. “Academics are very important to me. It’s a number- one priority. I study really hard and get good grades. My mom tells me often that if I want better for myself I have to work hard and do well in school,” he said.
Peterson describes Sims as “an amazing student,” indicating that all this hard work is paying off. “Devonte is definitely on track to graduate in June, which is awesome. I see him attending a four-year college and getting a degree. In fact, his football coach recently had a talk with me to make sure that he goes to college. We want to make sure he has the support that he needs to enroll in a school because he deserves that opportunity.”
Sims is not likely to let that opportunity pass by either. “I am planning to go to college for computer engineering, and I have a few colleges in mind at the moment that I am thinking about. I do know I really like computers and in my spare time I am always on the computer doing things – whether it’s PowerPoint presentations for homework or personal projects – I really enjoy using them.”
No matter what career he chooses, Peterson knows that he will be a leader and work within his community. In fact, one of his activities that helped him win his MVP honor was his volunteer work for a local elementary school. “I helped the kids after school. If any of them needed help with their homework, I was there to help out. I also helped them in the gym playing sports and games. I really enjoyed doing community service, and I think that it is something I will continue to do in the future,” he said.
When asked about the role leadership plays in making a community a better place, Sims responded, “Leadership is very important because you lead by example. As a leader, you help others see that if you can do something, they can as well. I’ve realized that if I try and help out an individual, they tend to help me back which can inspire others to do the same.”
In fact, leadership was the theme of the essay he wrote for the contest. In it he wrote, “Helping others is the most important thing to me. I mean, if someone from my neighborhood gets on the bus and forgot their bus card, I will help them out. Some people might say that’s weird, but I say it’s just helping.”
Sims still beams when asked about winning the 2012 Sprite MVP contest, and Peterson thinks his win has opened his mind to what might be possible for him. “When he won the contest, I think he saw that there are a lot of opportunities out there for him. It also motivated him in other areas, too, such as applying for scholarships for college. It has allowed him and others see that with hard work positive things are possible,” she said. In this case, even such positive things as getting to get to warm up with the Bulls and meet some of the players.
“It was an amazing experience that I was fortunate to have especially as a Bulls fan. The energy of the team was awesome! It may seem like they are just out there to practice and horse around, but I realized in their practices they make every shot count. They weren’t just playing around; they were very serious about their job, which is inspiring,” Sims said.
“I even got to talk to Joakim Noah and Ronnie Brewer who told me that playing in the NBA and getting to where they are today hasn’t been easy,” Sims continued. “Noah also told me to keep doing what I am doing and that being in school will take me a long way. He said it may not seem like a lot now, but in the long run it really will be.”
Really good advice, from one MVP to another.