Hip-hop music blared from the speakers and the cheers of 400 Cole Elementary students echoed from the walls of the school’s multipurpose room Monday.
All eyes were trained on Tanya Crevier, the best woman basketball handler, as she spun the orbs in a way that would make the Harlem Globetrotters dizzy. Basketballs were spinning across Crevier’s back, on a hula hoop, on water bottles, on pens held by brave volunteers and atop a pole that stretched to the ceiling.
Following Crevier’s spintastic display of talent, NFL free agent Dominic Miller tore a phone book in half, lifted students over his head and did pushups while students and teachers stood on his back.
But the assembly was more than just a show of athletic skills.
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Crevier, Miller and six other guest speakers were selected from around the world to deliver a message of positivity this week to local audiences of all ages through Champions For Tomorrow.
The program tailors its speeches to its audience, covering such topics as peer pressure, character building, dreams and goal setting, drug and alcohol awareness, bullying, depression, abstinence, gangs and more.
Champions For Tomorrow speakers visited nearly a dozen Clovis Unified schools to share their life stories and let students know “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
“We love to inspire, motivate and just challenge them to make good choices, to respect, to say ‘yes’ to the right things and ‘no’ to the wrong things,” said Crevier. “We use our talents as simply a tool to gain their attention and gain their respect and they really listen to what we have to say.”
The former Women’s Professional Basketball League player has traveled to more than 30 countries to perform and share a message of hope to people of all ages through her Spin-tacular Basketball Show. Crevier told the students and teachers gathered at Cole Elementary that although her father made just $11,000 a year as a farmer in South Dakota, she and her 11 siblings all ended up graduating from a university. They did it through perseverance, she said.
“Each of us have a personal story we share about being an overcomer. We want to give these kids hope and keep those dreams alive,” she said.
Crevier even taught the audience the secret to balancing any pole — whether it’s plastic or a wooden broom stick: “Look upward.”
The basketball handler used balancing things as a metaphor for life.
“Look at the opportunity and don’t always focus on your shortcomings,” Crevier said. “Have the courage to look upward and find a solution.”
Dominic Miller, a standout defensive linemen at the University of Houston, helped his team to one of its best seasons in school history, with a conference championship in 2015.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound NFL free agent has spoken at more than 500 schools, prisons and juvenile detention centers over the last five years to inspire others who may have had a hard childhood like he did.
“When I was very young, both my mom and dad were in prison. My mom and dad made a wrong choice by listening to the wrong voice,” he told the Cole Elementary students.
Miller also spoke about his struggles with a learning disability and the anxiety he faced during “popcorn reading” sessions at school.
“I couldn’t read well,” he said. “But remember this: readers become leaders and hard work pays off. … I was the first one in my family to walk the stage and receive my college degree. The first one, guys.”
The students, drawn in by the upbeat, action-packed live show, repeated after Miller with enthusiasm: “Excellence! Education! Effort!”
“What size dream, or what size vision, did you wake up with this morning?” Miller asked the crowd.
“Big!” a few of the students yelled.
Miller asked some students and teachers to volunteer to be his visual aids, representing small dreams up to big giant dreams. Then each of the volunteers took turns standing on Miller’s back while he performed a pushup.
“Push,” Miller said, using the word as an acronym for “Persevere until success happens.”
During his demonstration, Miller lifted two students above his head as they clutched a metal rod.
“Hold on to your dream,” he told them. “Hold on to your vision and never give up.”
Champions For Tomorrow