By Kevin Shannahan
I wrote a piece a few months ago proposing holding a basketball game between Natchitoches Central High School and Lakeview High School. The purpose of the game would be to raise funds for a scholarship at Northwestern State University for students graduating from the parish’s public schools. Recent events have shown this to be an idea whose time has definitely come. While NSU has shown commendable leadership in being the first, and so far only one of two, institutions to protect their students from cuts to the state’s TOPS program, it is clear that Louisiana’s budget problems are not going away. NSU is our university and these are our children in NCHS and Lakeview. They need our help. With that in mind, the Natchitoches Parish Journal is reprinting “A Game With a Purpose.” Let’s make it happen!
It costs $10,000 to endow a scholarship at Northwestern State University. NCHS and Lakeview High Schools both field well-coached, talented and perennially successful boys’ and girls’ basketball teams that are a joy to watch. These two facts present Natchitoches Parish with an opportunity to help both our young people and our local university.
I’d like to propose an annual basketball game between the two schools’ teams with the gate and concession proceeds going into a fund to be used to endow the scholarship. The two teams have not met on the court in years and it remains the biggest unsettled sports rivalry in the area. I think this game could consistently fill Prather Coliseum for each year’s match-up. The game would showcase local talent, keep money circulating in the local area and above all, help our children.
Each year, a boy and girl who had played at least a season as a varsity athlete or trainer in any sport at either NCHS or Lakeview would earn a scholarship to NSU. The details as to qualifications and method of selection could be hashed out between the two schools. I don’t think it would take more than a year or two to raise the initial $10,000. As the amount grows with each year’s game, the amount of the scholarship can be increased. The NSU Foundation takes care of the money so there is no administrative burden on the schools. After a certain point, there would be enough funds for more than the two initial scholarships. Imagine the good that could be done after, say, 10 years.
Over the years that I have photographed local high school sports, I’ve been uniformly impressed by the young men and women of the various schools’ teams. They are a hard working, disciplined group of young people who have represented our parish with skill and class over the years. As they put away their uniforms and go on to the next phase of their lives, let’s help them get there! I can’t think of a better reason for a ball game.