Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Go to college. Play basketball. Live out your dream.
Lorenzo Bailey has taken this simple advice from a trusted mentor and turned it into a plan of action. "I'm just studying hard, playing hard and trying to give back," he says as he holds a bag of ice to his right shoulder.
Bailey, 22, is a senior psychology student at Millsaps College playing the most exciting ball of his life. As he talks about his basketball career, his hopes and plans for the future, I can almost feel his enthusiasm reverberate toward me from across the padded blue training table where we're sitting.
When I ask about his work for Mission First, a non-profit ministry in West Jackson, emotion enforces Bailey's words as he talks about his true passion: youth.
Warren Bridges, director of sports and adolescent ministries, invited Bailey to be part of the volunteer force at Mission First when he was a senior at Jim Hill High School. (Bridges is also the trusted mentor responsible for that aforementioned advice.) Bailey spends most of his time at Mission First tutoring elementary and middle school children, but also helps Bridges with the basketball program.
"To see all the wonderful things that Mission First is doing and all that God has planned for that community, you want to be a part of it," Bailey says.
Being part of the Millsaps basketball is something Bailey—"Zo" to his teammates—is proud of as well, especially this past March 2, when the Millsaps Majors beat No. 2-ranked Centre College to win the SCAC Tournament and clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
"To win with a group of guys like this, who are your brothers, it's incredible," Bailey says.
Incredible. Bailey also uses the word to describe his experience at Millsaps. As teammates come and go from the training room, Bailey talks about how Millsaps gave him the opportunity to experience different people and cultures that come together on campus.
Before hopping off the training table, I decide "incredible" is a word I can use to describe this young man across from me as well.
Bailey graduates with his psychology degree May 10. His experiences in the Jackson community, especially those at Mission First, will follow him as he explores new dreams—dreams that include many more contributions to young people in the community.
"I hope to start some place of my own like Mission First," he says. He's got a plan of action for that, too.
"You have to set goals for yourself, so you know where you're going," Bailey says.