A Harlem Globetrotter, who calls himself Scooter (left), asked Betunia Zelenlem to come down from the bleachers so he could teach her how to do the classic Globetrotter spin.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

On the ball

3 min read

Globetrotters connect with King School students at Harvard event

The Harlem Globetrotters, children from the Martin Luther King School in Cambridge, and Harvard now have something in common — CHEER.  And there was plenty of cheering during the Globetrotter’s appearance at Harvard’s Malkin Athletic Center on March 21.

Harvard hosted seven members of the Globetrotters and 150 children from the first through sixth grades of the King School. The students heard about the Globetrotters’ educational outreach program.  Called CHEER, the program underscores the importance of cooperation, healthy mind and body, effort, enthusiasm, and responsibility for youth.

For Carolyn Turk, deputy superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools, the event was consistent with Harvard’s strong ties, and commitment, to local schools. “Harvard doesn’t take partnership lightly . . . it’s really a back and forth to think about what we can do together to serve children and families.   This is just one example,” said Turk.

From the warm-up act featuring a welcome to Harvard to unbelievable basketball tricks, the students were active, outspoken, and totally engaged.

“Our school and your school share a mission of education,” said Christine Heenan, vice president of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications in welcoming the group. “We’re neighbors, and we hope some of you come to college here one day.”

Heenan asked the students for their thoughts on health and exercise, basketball, and college, and received hearty responses.

But when the towering squad appeared, cheers filled the gym.

Dressed in their signature red and blue uniforms, the Globetrotters told the crowd their names and where they graduated from college.   Then they broke out the heavy stuff:  “Cooperation,” cheered a Globetrotter. “Cooperation,” responded the crowd. Together, the big players and little kids rattled through the CHEER list and discussed each concept, and the players threw in a few lessons on basketball tricks on the side.

The finale came when a Globetrotter asked Betunia Zelenlem to come down from the bleachers. He held up her index finger, rotated the basketball, and placed it on the tiny tip for a classic Globetrotter spin.

Before the players left the court, one boy called out from the crowd.  “Hey, how long did it take you guys to learn all those tricks?”

A Globetrotter answered:  “The key?  I never stop practicing.”

“How wonderful for the children to see how adults live by the things that we learn in school,” said Joan Kerwin, a fourth-grade teacher at the King School.  “What you need as a child to succeed, you carry through as an adult.”

Harvard has longstanding relationships with Cambridge and Boston schools and runs a wide range of programs that support teaching and learning.  More than 8,000 students from kindergarten to 12th grade participate in educational and cultural enrichment programs at Harvard each year.

“Harvard stays with our children, K-12, in all types of partnerships, and it’s wonderful,” said Turk.