Blue Pacheco-Cornejo is a basketball instructor and mentor based in the Englewood neighborhood. His wife and high school sweetheart, Valentina, is a clinical psychologist. Their long commitment to the South Side includes purchasing a vacant lot where they hope to build a community center.
“I grew up in Gage Park, which borders Englewood. A lot of my childhood was spent in Auburn Gresham and Englewood because of basketball, which led to many friendships being created.”
“In the space where I currently operate, I have children who have experienced many obstacles. Throughout the years, I’ve had student-athletes who have been stabbed, shot and have experienced the death of a parent or family member due to gun violence. Our youth need role models and they need adults who will start being the example instead of talking about an example.”
“Years ago, I always knew I would transition into helping the next generation of basketball players. As I got into it, I realized this has nothing to do with basketball. I don’t want to just build basketball players: I want to build people.”
“You can’t play basketball forever. We sometimes chase the sport component too long while not growing in other facets of our lives, which makes the transition into adulthood even more difficult. What are you doing today to prepare yourself for your future life to experience better life outcomes?”
“You’re more than just a basketball player so use your work ethic in everything, not just sport. Grow and develop your mind, read more, ask questions, gain wisdom and use it all to better your life, which in turn will change your family dynamic and extend to your community.”
“We have a program that we call Series BLUE (Better Living Utilizing Education) where we’ll have professionals from different industries come in to share their stories and allow the audience to ask questions and learn.”
“We want to bring in people in architecture, real estate, different kinds of engineers, and law enforcement as well. We need to build good relationships amongst our communities and the police department.”
“I tell people, ‘Don’t shy away from a big dream like [basketball] but understand the work and commitment that’s involved.’ And you can’t say you’re serious about basketball and not be serious about your academics, too. That’s part of the process. If the school doesn’t do academic probation for sports, the parents should be doing it. Because what’s the point of you being in the gym if you’re not getting good grades in school? What’s the point of being a good athlete if you can’t read at grade level?”
“With all the student-athletes I work with, my goal is to get them to understand the importance of using that work ethic in everything; not just basketball. The big gain is to understand you’re more than just a basketball player in this situation. You will be a husband or wife one day, a parent and a professional in something else that may have nothing to do with basketball.”
Basketball instructor, mentor
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