Making an impact

Jalen White plans to return home to St. Pete and became an influential administrator in Pinellas County Schools.

BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The impact of African-American teachers, administrators and coaches in the educational system has immeasurable effects on the development of Black youth. Children of color identify more with people they see in their neighborhoods when taking instructions in the classroom.

Native son Jalen White knows this for a fact and plans to become a high school principal and make a difference in Pinellas County Schools.

For now, he is an imposing college basketball player who knows his way around the court and the classroom. His achievements vary from senior class president at Lakewood High School to being a two-time debate winner in the AKA AKAdemy’s Great Debate program.

He’s also taken part in benefit basketball games to impact positive change in the St. Pete community.

White was nine years old when his father, David White, began coaching him. No slouch himself, David White was a McDonald’s and Parade All-American standout at The Boca Ciega High School and State Champion in 1986.

In the beginning, young Jalen didn’t take basketball seriously; however, the light switched on in middle school. The relationship with his father allowed him to grow into loving the game, along with the encouragement of his mother and older siblings, who presented competition that helped him develop.

Now, White, or Big J Boogie, has taken his talent to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Spartans and looks forward to playing at home at the Jersey Mike’s Classic held at Eckerd College from Nov. 18-21.

After graduating from Lakewood High in 2019, he attended Texas A & M University, Corpus Christie on scholarship, where he played two years of basketball before transferring to the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

When White arrived in Corpus Christi, he was excited about the area. The beautiful beaches reminded him of home in St Pete. The breeze from the ocean made it comfortable to walk while exploring the area. He took notice of the hospitality of the natives who welcomed his presence. Being a star basketball player gave him additional notoriety.

Then things got challenging. First, the impact of COVID-19 shut down the season. Once play started back, several key players were injured, forcing Jalen to play out of position, which he did admirably.

Then, the head coach announced that he was retiring. By his high school standard of success — 2019 Florida Association of Basketball Coaches, 6-A Player of the Year, and 2019 Source Hoops 6A Most Outstanding Player — the season was unsuccessful.

“Once coach finally came and talked to us in the gym to let us know that he was going to move on, I knew I needed to at least make sure I knew what options were out there.”

The University of North Carolina Greensboro was the perfect fit.

“I hope to be able to get more involved with extracurricular activities and create more opportunities outside of athletics,” expressed White. “I want to encourage students to value education and prepare for college so they will learn the language of admission officers, counselors, and financial aid sponsors. I aim to influence men and fathers to have better relationships with children and be involved in the community.”

White hopes to return to Pinellas County and become an influential administrator who will impact the community that helped raise him. For now, the community will have to settle for a chance to see him on the court at Eckerd College during the Jersey Mike’s Classic in November.

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