Team Walker was founded in 1996 by Jersey City natives Jerry and Jasper Walker, who aspired to give Jersey City children the same after school programs they enjoyed while growing up. They knew these programs helped them mature academically, and also provided them with an athletic outlet for their basketball abilities. After graduating from St. Anthony High School and helping the Friars win a mythical national championship, Jerry enrolled at Seton Hall University and was instrumental in helping lead the Pirates Men’s Basketball team to three trips to the NCAA Tournament. For his efforts, Walker was honored as the Metropolitan Player of the Year Award, the ESPN Post-Player of the Year Award, and earned Second Team All-BIG EAST recognition.
Returning to his childhood neighborhood in Jersey City after enjoying a professional basketball career in Europe, Jerry saw the need for the type of programs that proved to be of such great benefit in his personal development.
The Team Walker vision was to create a program that would provide safe and constructive alternatives to the negative influences that plague inner city youth. Through a structured academic and recreational environment, the children would learn how to focus on teamwork, responsibility, persistence and unity. The staff knew that if children were provided positive role models, in combination with a gained sense of accomplishment and heightened awareness of their capabilities, they could significantly improve their quality of life.
Although Team Walker lacked financial support at the program’s inception, that did not impede Jasper and Jerry from realizing their vision. Using their own savings earned from working on Wall Street and playing basketball overseas, and fueled by the inspiration of their grandfather, who founded the Lafayette Neighborhood Association, Jerry and Jasper were able to start the program beginning with a summer basketball tournament. To their great credit, the program has been hugely successful, growing from one tournament and basketball clinic, and a handful of children, to over 500 participants, and year-round academic and athletic programs in Jersey City.
The Team Walker Mission Statement
“To uplift and create positive alternatives for the youth of Jersey City through programs designed to enlighten participants and teach the importance of solid academics, teamwork and sportsmanship."
This mission is accomplished through well-run, effective after school academic and athletic programs, which help impoverished youth find positive solutions to the many obstacles they may face in their daily lives. Team Walker founder Jerry Walker and the Team Walker Staff are conscious of the power of peer pressure and want to demonstrate to children, by their example, the importance of being the best they can be, and not what others want them to be. Team Walker mentors endorse the motto, ‘It’s cool to be smart’ and create an atmosphere that promotes success, and empowers students and student-athletes to be smart and therefore, successful.
Team Walker provides the tools for independent thinking, determination and persistence and teaches children how to use these tools in their everyday lives.
Why Does Team Walker Work?
The Team Walker existence is a positive presence in the neighborhood, as well as a great model and resource for the many youngsters who may be looking for trouble, or just stuck in a circle of failure. Team Walker knows that sometimes by their outward demeanor, kids may give the impression that they neither want nor need adult guidance and supervision. However, leaving these children alone in their private worlds is actually the last thing these kids desire. Team Walker believes these children desperately need, and badly want, the blessing that comes from a mentor’s presence. So often much of their acting out, shoplifting, drug use, school absences, insolence and the appearance of being “cool” is no more than an attempt to force an adult’s hand and demand, if not beg, a parent, coach or significant adult for attention.
The staff of Team Walker is personally and deeply committed to the Team Walker mission. It is this commitment, together with the support of the friends of Team Walker, that makes the Program so successful.
Some Participant Stories
Felipe Rosario has some big dreams for his future. With only two years of fencing under his belt, Felipe has already come a long way, and if it weren’t for Team Walker, none of this would have ever been possible.
Felipe first became interested in fencing after giving it a try when it was offered by Team Walker as an after school program. Then in 2008, he received funding through Team Walker to be a part of the Cobra Fencing Club where he showed immediate love and talent for the sport.
Felipe recently attended his first tournament of the year in Brooklyn, and placed third in both Y12 with a pool of 17 fencers and Y14 with a pool of 19 fencers, some of whom are ranked nationally. He is continuing to make great progress in the sport and attributes his success to Team Walker who provided the funding for the first year. Rith Rosario, Felipe’s mom is extremely grateful for Team Walker and says that “fencing is something Felipe loves dearly, and not many children with his background have had the opportunity to experience such an elite sport and continue to succeed.”
Not only has Felipe had great success athletically, but he has excelled in the classroom as well. At 12 years old, Felipe is a B+ student who truly enjoys reading about three to four books a week.
As Felipe continues to embark on his journey in life and in fencing, he has big goals to not only compete nationally, but to one day join the Olympic team, and thanks to Team Walker, he is one step closer to achieving his dreams.
Kevin Lewis, a Lincoln High School graduate, was part of Team Walker for most of his teenage years. Motivated to play the game of basketball, yet lacking in some academic areas, Jerry Walker suggested he enroll at The State of New York Community College, (CUNY) where he could continue to play, honing his on-the-court skills, under the watchful eye of Jerry’s college friend, Daryl Crist, while mastering his skills in the classroom. Currently, Kevin is doing well academically, playing basketball and looking for a Division I or Division II school to play for next year.
Why Is Team Walker Crucial For The Youth Of Jersey City?
“My high school coach, Bob Hurley, used to go around my neighborhood when I was at St. Anthony and you never wanted him to see you just hanging around,” remembers Walker. “This helped keep me out of trouble, and now, I’m trying to do the same and help keep these kids out of trouble. They’ll say, ‘Oh man, here comes Jerry!’ They’ll try to put out the cigarette before we get to them, because they know we won’t accept that!
While many of Jersey City’s youth believe they are young adults, Team Walker understands their attitudes and maturity levels and believes that, with the right activities, the negative behavior of these “young adults” can be curbed and their heads can be turned in the direction of success.
Learn more about Team Walker Academic Programs
Learn more about Team Walker Athletics and Recreation Program
ABOUT JERRY WALKER - Basketball Highlights
After graduating from St. Anthony High School and helping the Friars win a mythical national championship, Jerry Walker enrolled at Seton Hall University and was instrumental in helping lead the Pirates Men’s Basketball team to three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Read more about Jerry Walker’s basketball career