Former Pirate Jerry Walker set to open new building for his kid friendly organization

Jerry Walker may be remem­bered as a high school All-Amer­ican and Seton Hall standout as a forward on the basketball court in the early ’90s, but there’s more to Walker than just his power. There’s his heart.

“Everyone who knows him as a basketball player has said that he had the biggest heart on the team,” Associate Dean of Fresh­man Studies, Robin Cunningham, who has known Walker since his first year at the Hall and has continuously kept in touch with him said. “He was so dedicated to Seton Hall, and he still is. He has a deep understanding of what it means to give back to the com­munity.”

After graduation, Walker played professional basketball overseas for a couple of years before returning home to Jer­sey City only to see the desper­ate need for programs to develop and support the children of Jersey City against the rough inner city neighborhood.

And that’s just what Walker did. Inspired by his grandfather who founded the Lafayette Neigh­borhood Association, Walker, along with his brother Jasper, used the money from their own savings and created Team Walk­er – a nonprofit that is a positive presence for the youth of Jersey City with programs that empower the children and teach them the importance of education, respon­sibility and teamwork.

“He’s all personality, and he’s all authenticity,” Cunningham, who has a photograph of young Walker tacked on her bulletin board said. “He just cares about his community, and he really learned the value of education when he was here. He’s so grate­ful to Seton Hall for that, and he just wants to turn around and give it back to people in his own com­munity.”

What began with one sum­mer basketball tournament and a basketball clinic with a handful of children has transformed into a well-established organization with various academic and ath­letic programs all year long, af­fecting more than 500 children of Jersey City for the better.

This summer will mark the 17th year since Team Walker’s in­ception, and with that, the build­ing of Walker’s very own Team Walker Learning Center, which is set to have the first shovel in the ground next month.

“It’s definitely self-gratifying to me because for one thing it can be my own legacy,” Walker said. “You know, my grandfa­ther always borrowed and leased spaces from local churches in the area. This is going to be the first facility we actually own, and it’s a place that we will call home.”

Cunningham, who always ed­ited Walker’s papers, gave him a frame that read ‘Never stop learn­ing.’ with a red pen attached as a graduation present. Once a men­tor and now a friend, Cunning­ham couldn’t be any prouder or happier for Walker.

“I so admire him with his per­severance of his dream to have the building – the Team Walker Learning Center,” Cunningham reflected. “This has been going on for over 10 years now, and he’s never ever given up. He’s always believed that it will happen, and he’s worked night and day to get the support, donors and commu­nity of Jersey City to believe in him.”

While Walker is also happy about the construction of the building, he is focused on the kids and their future more than ever.

“If we can save one life, we’ve done our job,” Walker said. “With this new building, we plan to save thousands of lives and change the culture in the mindset of the chil­dren in the neighborhood.”

Krissy Wrobel can be reached at wrobelkr@shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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