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Celtics/SNHU unveil STEM Lab; advise kids to never give up

By Tara Vocino

Seventh and eighth grade students in the afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Club had a visit with by the Boston Celtics to unveil Southern New Hampshire University’s and the Celtic’s co-branded STEM Lab at Madeline English School on Wednesday afternoon.

“Children can pick any direction that they want to go,” said retired Celtics Point Guard Dana Barros before the classroom visit. “They can become millionaires just by creating a YouTube channel if it’s used in the right ways – good and bad.”

Madeline English School Director of Science Ann Ritchie said hearing athletes tell students that they can do whatever they set their mind to has a lasting impact on them. “It’s a small step, but it can open doors to careers later on in life,” Ritchie said.

Celtics Vice President for Community Engagement, Dave Hoffman, introduced Barros as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, adding that he had the opportunity to attend any college, but the former Boston resident chose to stay in this area.

“He’s a former NBA All Star … Usually, you have to look up,” Hoffman said of his unusually short 5′, 10″ stature for basketball players. “In this case, you don’t have to look up figuratively, but we all admire him.”

Although Barros has done approximately 75 speaking events with the Celtics since he retired in 2003, it’s his first time seeing robotics in a lab, which is making mechanical items by putting pieces together that can move. “It’s unbelievable in terms of their creativity,” said Barros, a former Mattapan resident who attended Xaverian Brothers High School and Boston College.

Barros told students that they are blessed with great technology, adding that he didn’t have any of that available while growing up. “You can create the life that you want to create,” Barros said.

While working with the students at one of the tables, 6′, 10″ Celtics Rookie Rob Williams, 21, a recent graduate of Texas A & M University, said the new lab was beautiful, adding that the green walls give the science center an upbeat spirit. Williams just got drafted as a center/forward.

“I just noticed the Celtics logo when you pointed it out to me,” Williams said with a laugh. He later autographed the logo.

Williams liked the collaboration between students and “whatever she got over there,” referring to an engineering project where students shot the ball into a hoop using computer-based technology.

He told students that his classmates in Texas didn’t see the point in going to school, but he encouraged them not to think that way, since anything is possible if one doesn’t give up.

Barros told students that he went to school to study architecture, but he didn’t like doing math by hand, so he pursued basketball. He said he buys houses, revamps them and sells them, adding that he built his own home in Easton. “It’s in a different form and fashion,” Barros told the students.

They asked students what they hope to be when they grow up.

Student Natalie Heal said she wants to become a surgeon, to much applause. And student Luiza Elci De Oliveira said she’d like to become a professional musician – a drummer – since she said she can’t sit still and gets bored easily.

Eighth-grade Science Teacher Bruce Jaffe said after the classroom visit that it was very special to have the Celtics and SNHU visit, and it will make a lasting impression on the students. “As they enter high school next year, they taught them that they can do anything that they want,” Jaffe said.

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