Joseph Francois is truly both an athlete, and a scholar. A native of Haiti, Joseph moved to the United States in elementary school, without knowing any English.  Now he is a former basketball player and current member of the Excel High School varsity football team. He’s also taking AP Biology, has completed Honors Chemistry, and is working hard to be on the Honor Roll.

Matt & Joseph

Matt & Joseph working on biology homework

One resource that he’s found extremely valuable in helping him to balance those equal yet seemingly disparate challenges is “The Zone.” Run by the Boston Scholar Athlete Program* (BSA), the Zone at Excel High School in South Boston is mandatory for all student athletes. “It’s not just for students who don’t have high GPAs. If you’re on a sports team, The Zone is for you,” said Chon’tel Washington, Zone Facilitator, of the Red & Blue Foundation who is onsite at Excel daily. The school sees The Zone as an extension of the teams. Boston Partners in Education has helped to supply volunteer academic mentors to BSA since the program started three years ago.

The Zone is a time and place for student athletes to do their homework, help their peers, or work with a tutor. Students are encouraged to request a tutor if they are struggling with a subject. This is exactly what Joseph has done for the past two years.

“Last year they had ‘The Zone’. I had a test in Honors Chemistry and I needed help. I did well on the test, so I knew that [getting a tutor] worked for me.” This year he worked with an academic mentor in biology. I asked him if many other students request volunteers for themselves. He said, “They don’t take the time to meet with a volunteer. They don’t see the benefit in it.”

Joseph does see the benefit, however, and even though the football season has ended, he keeps coming each week to work with his volunteer, Matt Kramer.

Sports are more than just a common interest that Joseph and Matt happen to share. Matt, a Harvard graduate, is a professional baseball player currently playing in the minor league for the Boston Red Sox. “I had a lot more free time now that school is finished. I always wanted to volunteer in college, but never had time for it. I have some free time now and a biology degree, so why not help?” said Matt. In his off season he trains six days a week, but still manages to find time to volunteer.

Joseph at the Celtics game

Joseph at the Celtics game

Joseph has invested a great amount off time and hard work on his own and with Matt that he hopes will be rewarded in the future. Something he didn’t expect from his investment, however, was that he’d have the opportunity to be a Ball Kid at a Boston Celtics game on February 15. We were so impressed by his dedication to his school work and athletics that we nominated him to participate in the second annual Mentoring Night at TD Garden. The Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation (BCSF) and Mass Mentoring Partnership organized the evening for which BCSF donated more than 150 Celtics tickets to mentors and mentees from around Massachusetts. Joseph, in addition to being chosen as Ball Kid for the game, was able to participate in special pre-game opportunities.

We’re thrilled that Joseph was selected for the honor and we wish him well with the remainder of the school year.


*Boston Scholar Athlete Program’s mission is to improve academic achievement through athletics in the Boston Public High Schools. This focus is based on the proven link between athletic participation and positive academic performance. BSA was created by Suffolk Construction’s Red & Blue Foundation.