Douglas Huey arrived at Moody Coliseum an hour before the SMU versus Memphis tipoff on Jan. 30 to watch the teams warm up. He received a VIP pass into the SMU locker room, a meet-and-greet with Coach Larry Brown, and seats right behind the SMU bench. After the 80-68 win over Memphis, Huey was escorted into the post game press conference and then into the locker room.
“The night was a great surprise, great fun, and I got to go with one of my best buddies,” Huey said.
So how was Huey able to get a behind the scenes look at SMU men’s basketball? The experience is part of Coaching for Literacy’s Assistant Coach program, an organization that partners with universities around the country to raise money for literacy efforts. SMU and other participating schools offer special time with coaches and teams to people who donate to the program.
SMU junior Jonathan Wilfong cofounded Coaching for Literacy in August of 2012 while still in high school. The organization’s goal is to offer a solution to illiteracy in cities across the United States. SMU’s Coaching for Literacy chapter was founded in the fall of 2015 and now has an executive board of seven and close to 30 general members.
“It’s rewarding to see people obtain opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had,” said Wilfong. “And that’s what it’s really about: giving people a chance to succeed.”
Since Coaching for Literacy’s formation, University of Mississippi, Vanderbilt University, University of Memphis, and Mississippi State University have all formed Coaching for Literacy chapters on their campuses. Each chapter supports local literacy initiatives financially and with volunteers. The chapters are formed to give college students an opportunity to make an impact in their community, according to Wilfong. Twenty-five universities have hosted the Assistant Coach program this year.
Huey’s daughter purchased the Assistant Coach program at a Dallas charity auction, but the experience can be purchased in a number of ways. Donations range from $500 to $5,000, according to Gray Blocker, the Coaching for Literacy program director. Universities and local literacy initiatives often advertise the coaching experience through email, websites, and radio announcements.
Huey was the first person to attend a basketball game as part of the Assistant Coach program at SMU. But Coaching for Literacy sponsored a football game against Temple University last fall in which a donor participated with head coach Chad Morris.
Reading is Fundamental and School Zone are the two Dallas initiatives that benefit from the program, according to Wilfong.
School Zone is an organization that partners with Dallas schools and nonprofits to create a consistent environment for neighborhood children, according to Miya King of SMU’s Budd Center. Coaching for Literacy provides tutors and funds to promote literacy in the community.
Blocker wants university students to understand that they can be a part of solving child illiteracy while in college. Coaching for Literacy encourages students to volunteer for the literacy initiatives in their community.
Literacy partners like School Zone are crucial advertisers for the Assistant Coach program, according to Blocker. In order to generate donations, they advertise upcoming events and programs on Coaching for Literacy’s behalf.
“Literacy partners that are willing to spread the word, especially outside our city, expands people’s awareness of Coaching for Literacy,” said Blocker.
As Coaching for Literacy expands, it is the organization’s hope that when someone sees the lime green of its logo, that he or she identifies the color with literacy efforts. Coaches and volunteers wear the organization’s pins on their lapels and bracelets on their wrists to build awareness. The organization hopes that the Assistant Coach program and their efforts expand beyond word of mouth to become a nationwide fight against illiteracy.