Be There Awardee goes above and beyond for Sto Rox kids

“I hope I’m making an impact. I’m trying to teach the kids the importance of attendance and showing up.”

United Way’s Be There initiative promotes excellent school attendance to students so they will have greater success in school and more opportunities following graduation. Michael Gupp received one of this year’s “Be There” Awards for going above and beyond for local kids at Sto Rox Elementary.

Ten years ago, Michael, a teacher at Sto Rox, decided to start a basketball program for the 5th and 6th grade students with help from a few teachers and volunteers. “I wanted them to know someone cares about them and offer them a place to be with friends and positive role models outside of the classroom,” Michael explained.

Nearly a decade later, Michael is still equally as passionate about the basketball team and the kids who play, and does everything he can to ensure the players are having a positive experience.

With tight budgets, the school struggled to provide uniforms for all 25 players. Michael, with the support from a couple friends, stepped up and offered to help fund the uniforms. “Uniforms are a sense of pride. The kids were so ecstatic when they got theirs, they wore them around school all day,” Michael said.

Michael stresses attendance and good grades and checks in with his players often to make sure everything is going okay inside and outside the classroom. “It’s not just about the basketball. It’s about learning respect, the importance of showing up for your teammates and yourself, and how to be the best person you can be,” Michael said.