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Former Harlem Globetrotter and University of D.C. alumni Charles ‘Choo’ Smith Jr. is now helping the youth of Baltimore with his own mentoring and education program the Charles “Choo” Smith Youth Empowerment Organization.

After his 1998 graduation with a degree in computer science, Smith realized he could use the skills he’d developed to give back to the community. But he spent some good years as a Globetrotter first.

“In 1999 I was playing basketball and a Globetrotter recruiter was there. I came in to the office, went to the trial and out of 125 players I was number one of the four [selected],” Smith said.

Being a Globetrotter takes more than just ball-handling skills, Smith says.

“The Globetrotters are considered ambassadors of goodwill, so your character is important. Are you a people person, because you’ve got to be able to relate to the families as you entertain them.  And then they look at your ball-handling skills – are you a great shooter, are you a great ball-handler?”

Smith started the Charles “Choo” Smith Youth Empowerment organization to help the young men and women with more than just their hoops skills.

“Probably traveling the world and being exposed to a lot of things made me went to have a big rec center where you could teach every life skill. When I’m growing up in the inner city, we just had rec centers and not to put anyone down but we were kind of being housed with activities and not being developed,” Smith says. “So when you go to different parts of the country you see kids being developed at a high level. I wanted to use basketball as a draw to have them come and then give them life skills lessons like financial literacy, etiquette and interviewing skills so that they can grow up to be productive citizens.”

Smith is originally a native of West Baltimore who grew up in the same neighborhood as Freddie Gray, Jr. When he went back to the city to rebuild a decaying basketball court, Gray told him he would make sure that the court was protected from violence and mischief.

“He was a great kid. We have to get back on the grass roots level of our children. Our kids are special, they’re phenomenal and you’ve got to give them an opportunity. He’s an example of that and there’s many more like that in that community.

For information on his youth programs, click HERE.

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