College athletes inspire

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – With all the recent shooting deaths in south St. Petersburg, one organization aims to take the spotlight off of the negative and shine it on the good that’s coming out of the area.

On Christmas Eve, 13 of St. Pete’s finest college athletes assembled at the Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center to share their life experiences with the children attending winter camp.

St. Petersburg Skills Academy (SPSA), a non-profit organization, along with Lakewood High School’s Head Basketball Coach, Anthony Lawrence, decided to put together a roundtable discussion to demonstrate what hard work, determination and keeping your nose clean looks like.

“This is a great opportunity for them to see what kind of impact they are having on our community, and also for you guys to see that these athletes are doing fantastic things,” said Lawrence to the children.

He stressed that all 13 college athletes once resided in south St. Pete, and are now “doing phenomenal things” on the field and in the classroom.

Lisa and OT Delancy, the husband and wife duo behind SPSA, started the academy in April of 2014. It takes both boys and girls and provides life skills, academic, character improvement, and of course, athletic support to local youth.

They aimed to expose the youth to different experiences that will take them out of their neighbor and on to a national stage. Last year they took 10 teams all over the state to compete on the amateur circuit. The young ones have a chance to compete in leagues such as the American Amateur Athletic Union and the United States Specialty Sports Associations.

“A lot of them think that they can play rec ball or high school basketball and get to the next level, but the truth of the matter is that they can’t,” said Lisa. “You have to go through the competitive process to get to the next level.”

So how did they manage to assemble 13 of St. Pete’s biggest and baddest college athletics a day before Christmas? Through Coach Lawrence’s phone book and social media, of course.

“Lawrence knew a lot of the athletics and once we started putting it out on Facebook,” said Lisa, “the word started spreading.”

These 12 young men and one very pretty young lady, stopped by to give the younger generation encouragement and hope for the future. After all, less than a decade ago they were most of these kids age.

“I think it’s a very powerful thing and will resonate throughout the community in a powerful way because south St. Pete needs this type of inspiration right now,” said OT.  “This type of light is the kind of light that we need and these guys have brought that today.”

After a PowerPoint presentation on the athletes, they fielded questions from both the children and the parents.

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