‘Rise, Grind, Shine Again’: Kevin Durant’s message to Willie Brown Middle School students

Hundreds of middle schoolers screamed in delight last Friday when Kevin Durant’s 6-foot 9-inch frame emerged onstage at Willie Brown Middle School in San Francisco.

In partnership with Alaska Airlines, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), Durant’s surprise visit was a collective effort to support the students as they start a new school year, and remind them that back-to-school is an opportunity for new beginnings.

“It’s a new start to the school year. Welcome back,” the NBA All-Star said to the cheering crowd of students. “I hope it’s your greatest year ever and leads you into the future. Continue to dream big, continue to believe in yourself and have some fun. And please, please, please be grateful to everyone who teaches and helps you throughout the year.”

To help purchase much-needed school supplies and classroom equipment, Alaska presented a $10,000 donation to Willie Brown Middle School. The students also got some advice and encouragement from former Mayor Willie Brown, the namesake of the Bayview middle school; San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews; and Alaska Airlines Bay Area VP Annabel Chang. Speeches centered around the importance of education in achieving lifetime goals – and ensuring success through hard work and dedication.

“I am truly grateful for the opportunities Alaska is providing for our young people here at Willie Brown,” said Vincent Matthews, SFUSD Superintendent. “We had Kevin Durant here this morning and he spoke to students and really told them to stay involved, stay engaged and keep working hard.”

“Huge shout-out to Alaska Airlines for inviting Kevin Durant here to the school today to greet our students, and for donating the $10,000 check so we can improve our Maker Space and Willie Brown Bookstore,” added Willie Brown Middle School Principal Charleston Brown.

Continuing the surprise, a select group of eighth-grade students, who made the honor roll for good grades the previous year, were chosen to participate in a game of “knockout basketball” in the school’s indoor gym. The energy was high on the court – as two lucky winners received a KD-signed basketball.

Durant also stopped by to share some final words of encouragement, congratulate those who had just made the school’s basketball team, and gather for a selfie.

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

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