The Hero Syracuse Needs? Lawrence Moten guiding kids to the right path
It's something Central New Yorkers dread hearing about, and unfortunately, they're hearing more about it lately.
Violence in our city, especially involving young people.
While Syracuse residents want answers, the real solution may not happen overnight.
It starts with our kids in Central New York.
That's the reason why the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation and local businessman Adam Weitsman have made large donations to the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse.
And speaking of Syracuse Basketball, its all-time leading scorer is stepping up to the plate.
Lawrence Moten, who also holds the Big East Conference's all-time scoring record, is now a part of the Promise Zone. That means he works with kids at Clary Middle School to keep them on the right path.
I followed Moten for a day, as he walks through the halls of Clary and meets with his group of kids.
At one point, he meets with a cluster of students in the library. The students take turns telling him about their career goals and without fail, Lawrence offers timely advice or guidance tailored for each student.
From praise for every profession goal, even offering advice about local companies like Wegmans being wonderful places to work.
In this city with an uptick in recent violence, all the advice is poignant. It all provides a ray of hope.
"North, South, East, West. This is Syracuse. You're all from Syracuse, I don't want you to be stuck on one side" Moten tells his students.
Later in the day, Moten makes time to have lunch in his office with about ten students. They talk about the Super Bowl, when Lawrence laments about his Washington squad not making the big game.
It's the perfect blend of fun and games with the necessary lessons of life.
Again, all from one of the best players to ever play for the Orange.
Clearly, the students look forward to their time with Moten, especially when it comes time to hit the basketball court.
It's a rewards-based system, Vice Principal at Clary Middle Doug Kasouf tells me.
"If you're being positive, if you're doing the right things in the classroom you get to spend time on the basketball court with the Big East's all-time leading scorer. The kids can understand that, it's just another positive adult figure that these guys can see."
One student we spoke with is George Lemon. He's 14 years-old, in 8th grade at Clary. His eyes light up with Lawrence enters the room, whatever guidance Moten offers as the duo walks the hallways, you know he's taking it to heart.
"They (the staff) show me so much attention, it's something I haven't gotten from my pops so it's like I can look up to them" Lemon tells me.
When Moten does the exercise asking about future career goals, George's is clear.
He wants to be a Syracuse Firefighter. He told me he even saved a neighborhood dog once from an emergency situation, and this enthusiasm is given the necessary boost and guidance. By the all-time leading scorer in Syracuse Basketball history.
"He has a good spirit" Moten says of his buddy George.
"He tells how I'm supposed to do what I have to do to make my life better. I'm just going to keep looking up to him" George says of Moten.
It's not a cute end-line to a story or a cliche to describe Moten. Just watching him work with these students, they want to please him and stay in his good graces. They want to make him proud.
As I watched "Mr. Moten" interact with really, a great group of young men I can't help but think of Lawrence's impact and wonder.
Perhaps, the hero Syracuse needs, is the one it's always had.