Kobe Bryant may not be your ordinary field-trip chaperone, but he is taking young people across the world. Bryant’s Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation has partnered with After-School All-Stars, Los Angeles (ASAS-LA), an after-school program provider, to send 11 students from underserved L.A. neighborhoods to China on an educational tour. This past week, Kobe caught up with the students while they were in the world's most populous country, treating them to a basketball seminar and promoting his foundation's immersion program.
We caught up with Kobe to ask him about his international adventure. Here’s what the NBA star had to say:
DoSomething.org: What inspired you to get involved with After-School All Stars? Why is it important?
Kobe Bryant: It's so important to give back to the community and help kids find opportunities through their own passion, be it sports, dance, education, the arts, community service, etc.
I have been involved with [After-School All-Stars] for over three years now. It offers comprehensive after-school programs to thousands of students in deserving inner-city communities.
DS:What is your advice to young people who want to learn more about tolerance and diversity?
KB: Take time to understand other cultures. I attended school in Italy at the age of six!
I want young people to learn more than just the world that surrounds them on a daily basis. It’s usually youths from lower socio-economic areas that have the least opportunity to learn about the world outside of their own communities. When you learn about an entirely new culture…it cultivates worldliness, tolerance, and respect for other individuals who are not like you.
DS: You've traveled a lot around the world. Can you think of a moment that really inspired you to help others during your travels?
KB:While filming an Olympic promotional show during the 2008 Summer Olympics, I met and befriended Cao Yan, a 14-year-old boy with spina bifida and arranged for Cao to receive life-changing medical treatment in Los Angeles. His story and trials in the fight to live inspired me both personally and professionally.
DS:Did you have any involvement in after-school programs growing up? If not, do you wish that you had?
KB:I did not have a comprehensive after-school program growing up, though I was committed to basketball practice each day after school. If it was not for basketball…I may have not had the direction to continue to excel in an activity I was passionate about.
DS:A lot of athletes skip out on educational opportunities to jump into the pro-sports world early. Why do you think it's important to continue education?
KB:A very small percentage of top athletes make it into the professional sports industry. Kids growing up may not understand that. Though sports are very important, I’d say education is even more important. Education and knowledge can transform an individual and a life. Through education, a world of continued opportunities can come to you.
DS:If you ask tell young people sitting on the couch to go out and do something for others, right now, what would it be?
KB:Get up! Figure out something that interests you, and then figure out how you can use that passion to not only further yourself, but also to help others.