Former NBA champ Mark Aguirre visits Chicago high school

December 2, 2011 6:08:01 PM PST
A former NBA player came home to Chicago to deliver a message of respect and civility to students at his former high school.

Mark Aguirre visited Westinghouse College Preparatory on the city's West Side to for Teaming Up for Respect, an Anti-Defamation League program.

Aguirre recently approached the Anti-Defamation League when he learned about the work they did in school to eliminate discrimination.

On Friday, Aguirre told Westinghouse's student body that when he attended the school just getting to class everyday was difficult because of the bullying he faced on the way to school.

"My high school coach...walked with me down to that particular spot and said, hey listen, you guys gotta stop, and that's all it took," Aguirre told ABC7.

"He went to this school and he was such an amazing star both at DePaul and then his pro career. He's a name kids heard about either by themselves or through their parents," said Lonnie Nasatir, Anti-Defamation League.

"It's really important that students understand the importance of how you interact with people who come from different backgrounds. And we really want to make sure students focus on the similarities that they have and really get away from focusing on the differences," said Principal Janice Jackson Westinghouse College Prep.

Aguirre was impressed with the student leaders, who have been trained as ADL peer trainers to engage the larger student body in interactive activities and to stand up to bias and discrimination.

"There is too much negativity in the world, so we brought this organization together to take away all the defamation," student Aaron Mack Jackson.

"We're the students, we're the future. And if we don't change things, then no one else will," said student Gisella Torres.

Aguirre was also thrilled to meet with former classmates of his but especially with his former history teacher Robert Lamont, who he said made a tremendous difference in his life and gave him the courage to ignore negative comments and move forward. The basketball star says he will continue encourage students to respect each other.

"This is something I am going to put a lot of effort bring a lot of people into it, to bring different athletes that I think would understand," said Aguirre.

Aguirre lives in Texas but spends time in Chicago every year.

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