Judson Prayer Breakfast Attendees Learn 'Hardball'
By Kerry Lester of the Daily Herald, Used with permission.
(ELGIN, IL - May 7, 2009) Hundreds of Judson University alumni, faculty, students and community members learned Tuesday that the secret to playing hardball is wanting the same thing for your neighbors as yourself.
The keynote speaker of the Elgin university's 21st annual prayer breakfast was Bob Muzikowski, the founder and president of Chicago Hope Academy, and the source of inspiration for the 2001 movie "Hardball."
Shortly after moving to the area in 1988, Muzikowski started the Near North Little League in Chicago's Cabrini Green neighborhood.
"We posted fliers hoping maybe 40 kids would show up, enough for a couple of teams," he said. Three hundred boys turned out the first day of practice. The program continued to grow, with leagues established on Chicago's West Side and New York's east Harlem neighborhoods.
In addition to baseball, Muzikowski sought to teach the boys life lessons about faith and service, aiming to keep them off the streets.
In 2004, Muzikowski and his wife, Tina, founded the Chicago Hope Academy, a college preparatory school for underprivileged youth
Unlike other public schools in the near west side, Chicago Hope features no locks on its lockers, no security guards and no custodians. Students are required, in addition to their studies, to take part in service activities and chores.
"The little league morphed into a high school," he said.
Chicago high schools today, "are more segregated than during Brown vs. the Board of Education's (1954 supreme court battle)," he said. "People with money need to put their kids in classrooms with low-income kids, and things will get better."
He urged the audience to take part in service, to immerse themselves in their communities.
"If there's something on your heart, just do it," he said.
Also featured at the breakfast were Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Jose Torres and Elgin Community College President David Sam, and Einstein Academy Principal Cathy Ilani, who read scripture verses in a number of languages.
Elgin residents and community activists Jack and Marlene Shales received the college's annual D. Ray Wilson Volunteer Service award.