Dallas Mavs CEO Cynt Marshall, veteran swingman Dorian Finney-Smith and Mavs legend Rolando Blackman showed up with a power punch of enthusiasm Monday morning to welcome back Dallas ISD students at Adelle Turner Elementary School.

The children received new backpacks, notebooks and other items from their school supplies lists, along with dental kits donated by Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics, the official dentist of the Dallas Mavericks.

New Dallas ISD superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde was also there, along with notable school and community leaders.

A little girl dressed in crisp school clothes with a princess crown on top of her head strutted through the doors with hope.

Earlier in the morning, a mother wiped tears as her tiny son walked into his first school. She was prepared for him to kick and scream, but instead, he raced into the arms of a Dallas Mavericks mascot.

The music thumped on the overhead speakers reminding everyone to ‘clap along if you feel happy is the truth. Because I’m happy!’ 

This was undoubtedly one of the best back-to-school celebrations of all time.

Dallas ISD is ready to hit the classroom and some schools, like Adelle Turner Elementary, are getting a head start.

There are 41 DISD schools starting early and the rest will jumpstart the school year next week.

The Mavericks committed to Adelle Turner Elementary School through a multi-year Adopt-A-School program. This includes investing in resources and supplies and providing training, volunteers and mentorship from the Mavericks organization while working collaboratively with the school leadership to develop a shared vision of creating an inclusive and diverse school environment.

The Mavericks adopted Adelle Turner Elementary in 2021 as part of their Mavs Take ACTION! plan, whose mission is to “address racial inequalities, promote social justice and drive change within North Texas.”

The adoption of Adelle Turner Elementary School, a predominately Black Dallas ISD school with a high percentage of low-income students, supports investment in education by nurturing the community and building quality relationships with school leadership, classrooms, and students.

Finney-Smith said he was pumped to roll up to Adelle Turner this morning and cheer on the students. The event was a whole vibe.

“When I heard about the background of this school, I just really wanted to be here,” said Finney-Smith, who dedicated nearly his entire offseason giving back to thousands of children at events in North Texas and Virginia.

“I just love being around kids. If I can impact any child, even by showing my face, then I want to help. We had an amazing day. We gave the kids a burst of energy before school started, so that’s always good. It’s just been an amazing day.”

Renewed hope and excitement dangled in the air as the leaders infused the hallways with excitement.

The children were the VIPs on this day, and everyone was there to celebrate the start of a new school year.

A bright bulletin board with a Mavs logo was pinned right outside the gym with a message that summed it all up: Focused on excellence, aiming for success. 

“I think it’s most important that we do this together,” said Dr. Elizalde. “And that (the students) know they’re important. Everyone knows the reputation of the Dallas Mavericks and how they give to the community. But when you see them in your school, and they adopted a school in South Dallas, it says to the students that they’re important.”

Dr. Elizalde also predicted that the Mavs will advance to the NBA Finals this year and the school district will cheer on the team every step of the way.

It really is a family affair.

Several events took place Monday morning.

The Mavs also dedicated a newly refurbished basketball court at Adelle Turner Elementary in partnership with community sponsors TIAA and Sprite.

The kids then heard inspiring words from various leaders and later hit the court with Finney-Smith to get their legs moving after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The students also received a few exciting welcome messages about the importance of school and getting an education.

“Welcome back to the first day of school,” Marshall eagerly told the children as she shook shiny blue pompoms and shimmied to the podium. Marshall knows a thing or two about festive events. She went from being one of Berkeley’s first Black cheerleaders to the first Black woman CEO in the NBA.

Her excitement was electric and infectious. And as a mother who once raised four adopted children, she knows a thing or two about getting kids ready for school, too.

“After our big Courageous Conversation in June 2020, we said ‘this has to be about action,'” Marshall later explained to the media at a press conference.

“As part of our Mavs Take ACTION! plan, we wanted to invest in the community in a bigger way. We wanted to invest in children and families…this is a part of our investment. Then we decided we wanted to adopt this school.

“We wanted to adopt the school the way I adopted my four kids. We wanted to take them, love them, come alongside them, get with the principal and ask what they need. We want to provide them mentors, volunteers and help with their technology and do whatever you need us to do to help raise these honeys to maybe come back someday just like their principal did.”

Principal Natalie Crittendon is eager to lead Adelle Turner Elementary School for another year because she attended the same school as a child.

The 26-year veteran educator is ready to help the mighty Tigers roar into the best school year ever. Many teachers arrived Monday morning decked out in Mavericks blue to celebrate the big day. Mavs staff will also proudly wear Tiger’s black and gold throughout the year.

The classrooms had Maverick notebooks on each desk, and a picture of Luka Doncic was pinned to the grass out front.

Finney-Smith joked, “that’s okay because I like to watch Luka play, too.”

The Monday celebration also highlighted the Dallas Mavericks’ annual donation of school supplies, not only for the adopted students at Adelle Turner, but all students in Dallas ISD.

In total, the Mavs will donate 20,000 clear backpacks this year. Schools with the highest need will also receive supplies, including additional backpacks, notebooks, pens, pens, pencil sharpeners, crayons and pencil pouches.

“Anytime you get to infuse the proper spirit for kids to go to school, it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Blackman, who is bilingual and welcomed the kids at Adelle Turner in Spanish.

“You’re talking about school supplies and being a part of their first day, so that’s most important. You want their minds ready to know that the community loves you. School loves you. The Dallas Mavericks are right here behind you and have your back. Anytime a kid can realize that, and know that…it infuses their spirit and future.”

At the end of the celebration, Marshall said it was extraordinary to have Finney-Smith on hand for the special day.

She said he’s evolved into one of the most giving athletes in the NBA, and his story mirrors many children attending the school.

Finney-Smith grew up in a single-parent household and was one of six children. He said don’t count out the kid who might be slower (and sleepier) than the others.

The native of Portsmouth, Virginia, said he was usually the “last one up and the last one out the door,” but he earned a sociology degree from the University of Florida and he is the proud father of three kids.

Oh, yeah, he’s also one of the best defenders in the NBA and a fan favorite wherever he goes.

Finney-Smith also dedicates his career to giving back to children. He teaches them to believe in the impossible.

“I love Doe Doe,” said Marshall. “He is investing in children here and back home in Virginia and making a difference. We talk about being champions on and off the court, and Dorian is a true champion off the court. He loves pouring into little children and making a difference in the community. He has a huge, huge heart. I just love him so much.”



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