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The Drive to Engage Children in the Community

Alternative Bronco Breaks

When Trey Conner (physical education, ’11) was approached about the opportunity to flip his education skills into community outreach that would help build a new Piston’s minor league farm team in 2013, he felt it he couldn’t turn it down. Six years later, he’s worked his way up to Vice President of the Grand Rapids Drive and is still using those skills to help engage kids in the community today.

Conner was one of a few individuals who helped launch the team, the first and only minor league team in Michigan, and build it into the success it is today. He started out in ticket sales and community relations and now helps oversee all aspects of the business.

His favorite part is being able to create memories for people and help build the community. “We get to utilize basketball as a platform to help motivate others. Whether it’s us going to the Boys and Girls club or going to school visits, being able to bring professional athletes, whether it’s former or current NBA players, or even future NBA players, to be involved in the community is really the best part,” shared Conner. The team frequently works with community organizations, makes school visits, and runs basketball camps.

In March, which is reading month, the team kicks off a four week reading program with the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Each week corresponds to one of the four quarters in a basketball game and students win prizes for completing 20 minutes of reading outside the classroom for five days each week. The prizes might be tickets or Drive gear and the students get to attend a game where they are recognized. For Conner, being able to help motivate kids to get the academic benefits of those extra 20 minutes of reading each day is what it’s all about.

The classroom management and lesson planning skills Conner learned as a teacher help him stay organized and he cites communication as the most important skill that helps him lead effectively. For those still working on their degrees, he advises them to proactively look for different experiences like volunteer opportunities and internships to help gain experience that can help you get your first job. “And once you get an opportunity, make the most of it. You might start out in an entry level position, but someday you could end up in a top management level position.”

One thing is certain, with the right amount of drive, Broncos can achieve whatever they put their minds to!