Net Gains: Former Basketball Standout Combines Service With His Love Of The Game In South Africa

PeacePlayer International — South Africa Fellow Bryan Franklin, a graduate of Stevens Insititute of Technology, was featured in their alumni magazine the Stevens Indicator!

This article has been reprinted below with permission. You can find the original here.


 

Bryan Franklin ’12 admits that as the child of an African-American father and Caucasian mother, he knew he was di­fferent from his classmates growing up in Colorado in the 1990s. “I just didn’t look like everyone else,’’ he says. “For a long time I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.’’

PPI-SA Fellow Bryan Franklin

PPI-SA Fellow Bryan Franklin

Always interested in race relations and multiculturalism, Franklin was appalled when he learned about apartheid, a system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. He also realized that, as a child in America, he was lucky to have positive role models.

And Franklin is committed to being a positive role model. In a big way.

Today, Franklin is a Fellow with PeacePlayers International (PPI), a sport for development non-profit that uses the game of basketball to educate, unite and inspire young people in culturally and politically divided communities to become leaders. Founded in 2001, PPI has reached more than 65,000 participants and trained more than 1,100 youth leaders. PPI has locations in Northern Ireland, Israel and the West Bank, Cyprus and South Africa. Stationed in Durban, South Africa, Franklin began his two-year commitment in April 2014, living in the KwaZulu-Natal province.

Franklin, a stand-out on the Stevens men’s basketball team for four years (and captain during his senior year), was attracted to the combination of service and basketball that PPI o­ffers and, since he serves as a basketball coach and teacher, he feels the program is tailor-made for his talents.

“The nice thing about being a fellow with PPI is that I get to have a hand in lots of different pieces of the organization. I assist in the fundraising and marketing of the organization, oversee the operations in one of our communities, and am also co-leader of our Leadership Development Programme, which includes everything from setting program goals to overseeing coaches to writing and updating our life skills curriculum and organizing events,’’ he says.

KwaZulu-Natal is an area burdened by the impact of AIDS and HIV, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty and strong cultural divides. PPI works with youth between 6th and 12th grades, and then employs former participants as coaches. Franklin works face-to-face with the children, both boys and girls.

Bryan with PPI-SA participants

Bryan with PPI-SA participants

He acknowledges that some days it’s hard to see so much pain. “I realize that I can’t change everything, but if only one life is changed for the better during my time down here, then to me it’s worth it. That’s my goal, one person at a time,’’ he says. His commitment to service was heightened during his college days, calling Stevens “the place where I grew up.’’

“It was during my time at Stevens that I discovered my passion for giving back to the community. I joined Alpha Phi Omega (a service fraternity on campus) and then continued as I got involved with Hoboken Grace Community Church. What better feeling than helping bringing a smile to someone’s face?’’ he says, adding that the service work continued when he worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Rising Tide Capital, a non-profit in Jersey City, New Jersey, that helps people in low-income communities start and grow their own businesses. “With my passion specifically for basketball and for travel, PeacePlayers is a dream job,’’ he says.

He firmly believes that all college students should get out and see the world.

“Travel has a way of providing incredible perspective that can’t be gained in a classroom and for me, it changed my life.’’

Franklin is still undecided about what’s next for him when his journey with PPI ends in 2016. He’s considering graduate school and has dreams of starting his own non-profit or ministry one day. ❖ — Lisa Torbic

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