Founded by former Buckingham Browne & Nichols scholar-athlete Kendric Price, Big Business Network Inc. offers young students positive choices, business skills and a few basketball lessons. (Richard Feloni photo)
As a veteran Boston Police officer and mentor, Bill Willis has seen how crime can perpetuate in the inner city. “A ton of young people emulate the thugs in our community,” he said.
Turn then to Willis’s friend and protégé, 25-year-old Kendric Price. Approaching seven feet tall, Price is a presence in the classroom, where his smile and sense of humor keep his students engaged. To the group of young men from fourth through eighth grade, learning the basics of finance is an enjoyable activity rather than a boring lesson.
“I think if you give a good kid a good option,” said Price, “he’ll typically choose the good option rather than the bad one.”
His recently registered nonprofit organization, Big Business Network Inc., is all about giving kids a positive choice.
Growing up in Dorchester, Price admits that he had plenty of negative role models. But his mother, Carol, made sure that they would not inspire him.
“She’s the one who grabbed me on Saturday mornings and dragged me to piano lessons, choir lessons … and luckily I loved basketball, so I excelled at it.”
Price went on to play ball at Buckingham Browne & Nichols high school in Cambridge and then the University of Michigan. An injury kept him from furthering his athletic career, but he graduated with a degree in psychology in 2008.
Following a stint as a dunker for the Harlem Wizards Entertainment Basketball team in 2011, Price felt that his days on the court were over and that it was time for something new. He went to work at an investment firm back home.
That same year, Willis cast Price as the lead in his film “The Last Shot,” dedicated to the memory of one of Price’s childhood neighbors, Steven Odom, a 13-year-old boy killed by a stray bullet.
“After that project, something in my head clicked,” said Price.
He approached his mother and told her that he felt it was his calling to help the young people of his community.
This past April, Price took inspiration from the Paul Robeson Institute for Positive Self-Development, a program for young black males he once attended, and decided to create his own. Keith Motley, who ran it at the time, is the kind of teacher Price strives to be.
Price gathered a small group of boys from Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain and Cambridge and built a five-week Saturday morning program using his own money that combined his two loves, business and basketball.
He was given access to facilities at his former high school, where Lewis Bryant, Director of Multicultural Services at BB&N, noted that, “The kids responded very well to him. He was serious and focused.”
Teaching basketball basics was the easy part. Price needed to find a way to make concepts such as the stock market and profitability accessible to his students.
He found his answer in making his classes conversational, and analogies helped teach kids without them even realizing that they were learning. For example, he used the scenario of buying a bag of chips at a local market to illustrate the principles of retail. Students implemented their newfound knowledge on computers.
“I had a fourth grader who’s able to go on Google Finance, download historical prices, upload that on an Excel spreadsheet, then graph it and tell you how many times out of the year Google was profitable,” said Price. “Now, you’re not going to take financial advice from what this kid is telling you, but…,” he laughed.
Willis finds Price to be an exceptional teacher due not only to his drive and determination, but also his ability to relate to his students. “When the younger kids can see somebody who looks like them, who speaks like them, it enables them to be able to identify with him.”
Price said that the young men know that he respects them. “If you can teach the kids that a lot of life is about relationships, then that’s something that will be ingrained in them.”
His program may teach how to use Google Finance and how to shoot a free throw, but fundamentally it is about learning the benefits of developing a work ethic and treating people the right way.
The Big Business Network program is scheduled to begin again in the fall with a group of seven, and Price knows that his former students who sign on again will help new recruits catch up. “It’s a team,” he said.
Price attributes his success to his mother, but she wants him to recognize his role in it, as well. “He did what he needed to do to get where he is,” she said.