HIGHLAND PARK, NJ – Ashton Burrell, award-winning author, community leader and the founder of the LIVE Mentorship Program, held a Gun violence awareness basketball game called “Shoot Hoops Not Guns” on Thursday, June 15th at 7:00 p.m. at the Highland Park Middle School, located at 330 Wayne Street in Highland Park, NJ. Rita’s of Edison New Jersey sponsored the event by providing all the kids there with free Italian ices throughout the evening.
The event began with a moment of silence for all of the victims that were lost around the world to gun violence. There was a reading of names submitted to Ashton Burrell to be read aloud during the moment of silence. The moment of silence was followed by the actual game in which Ashton Burrell’s team faced off against the young men of his mentorship program which is called LIVE.
Burrell founded LIVE Mentorship Program in 2011 while a sophomore at Lincoln University in Oxford, PA. Burrell, well-known for his award-winning community involvement and commitment to helping young people to learn the skills needed to succeed in school and life, would travel two hours from Pennsylvania to his hometown of Highland Park, NJ each Thursday evening to mentor at-risk adolescents and young adults between the ages of 9 – 19. Under Burrell’s leadership, Live Mentorship Program provides its members with the opportunity to participate in character-building service projects, such as food drives to help people in need, charity basketball games to collect canned goods for people in need, blanket drives to collect blankets for children in Malawi, Africa, and annual Charity Games to raise cancer awareness. The members of LIVE Mentorship Program even cooked meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House in New Brunswick, which provides families lodging when they travel to New Brunswick for pediatric medical care.
The game was packed with people of all races, ethnicities, and religions with one common goal to stop Gun violence and bring awareness to it. At half time the crowd heard from Highland Parks Mayor Gayle Brill-Mittler, NAACP New Brunswick Area President Bruce Morgan, Community leader Seshat Ali, and Brother Charles Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No.85. After half-time the second half of the game started. It ended with a great ending as Ashton Burrell’s team was victorious over his mentorship programs team 48-46.Every player wore the number 93 on the back of their jerseys to represent the amount of lives lost due to gun violence each day in this Nation. Even though the young men of LIVE lost to their mentor they were very good sports about the game shaking hands with each other saying “great game”.
LIVE Mentorship Program is successful in building leadership skills, self-confidence and a “can-do” attitude among its membership. In fact, 100% of all seniors who have gone through the Live Mentorship Program graduate high school.
“This event is so important I lost a childhood friend from Philadelphia to gun violence at a young age,” says Burrell, “Every day I watch the news and just see people losing their lives to gun violence and it breaks my heart!”
Burrell is also set to receive this years P.E.A.R.L.S Community Service Award on June 24th at the 16th Annual Maurice M. Williams Brunch at the Bridgewater Marriot. This award is given out each year to community leaders who have made significant contributions to making the Middlesex/Somerset county area a better place.
Burrell has also has his “Hometown Hero Club” clothing line designed to “change fashion and the lives of others as well!” A portion of the proceeds of each specially designed shirt goes toward helping a child’s future, and helping families in need to provide them with much-needed food for the holidays.
Ashton Burrell recently just graduated with his masters in business from the historical black college Lincoln University in Pa. This school has some great alumni from Thurgood Marshall to even Langston Hughes. Ashton Burrell is surely making his past to be mentioned amongst those great alumni as well.
To receive more information about the Gun Violence Awareness Game, or Ashton Burrell please contact Aburrellhp@gmail.com.