A PATRIOT FOR THE BOOKS: MALCOLM MITCHELL
by Sue Wurster
I’m sorry. I’m just not all that into football. I come from solid, Cleveland area, die-hard Browns fans, and maybe that, in itself, explains my lack of interest. The Browns just never seemed to me to be a particularly stellar bunch. And then, of course, Cleveland was plunged into the depths of a dense, dark, clinically critical depression over what it still rancorously refers to as “The Move” (complete with shudder) – when Art Modell fired coach Bill Belichick and tried to move the team to Baltimore. (The Ravens are still considered by said die-hards to be “an extension” team. Like some sort of sports off-ramp.)
So, when Super Bowl season rolls around, I find it easy to ignore the hype. This year, though, the weeks of build-up to the whole thing was thrust into my face when coverage of how it was all going to go down was everywhere. It eventually supplanted one too many Jeopardy airings, and I shifted to PBS, exclusively, for the news.
And yet, this isn’t even what really got me—and continues to get me. I thought that, after the Patriots won and came home to a big parade and waved that big trophy around and flashed the rings, it would finally be over. But the whole thing just keeps dragging on. Last night, on the news, there was an item about people getting Patriots logo and/or Tom Brady (TB12) tattoos to commemorate the whole thing. (They actually even showed a guy having one done on his bum…) Really? This is news?
BUT I found a bright spot in the midst of all this hoopla–Malcolm Mitchell. This young man, in my humble opinion, is one Patriot who deserves even more attention.
Mitchell grew up in Georgia where he played football for Valdosta High School and, early on, caught the eye of a scout from the University of Georgia. He also caught the attention of VHS principal Gary Boling who helped the young athlete prepare for college by encouraging him to take on a more challenging course load and to explore his options for his college course of study. Mitchell says that Boling changed his life—but the principal wasn’t the only source of inspiration and help that set him on a unique path.
Malcolm says that, when he arrived in Athens and the University of Georgia campus, he was not a confident reader. So, he decided to focus on building his strength—by reading as much as he could. At one point, while in an Athens bookstore, Mitchell apparently asked a fellow customer for a book recommendation. Kathy Rackley was happy to provide suggestions and indicated that she was picking up a copy of Me Before You, her book club’s choice for their next meeting. They talked, and, soon, Mitchell left the store with a copy of the book—and an invitation to join the group at their next meeting, which he did.
It didn’t seem to matter to Mitchell that the group consisted of middle-aged women with whom he had little in common. The women were welcoming, and the books took him to new worlds and pushed him to think about new ideas. (Besides, in the club, there were no papers or exams. No wrong answers.) “The book club helped me grow into a better individual,” he said in a Boston Globe profile in last May, “a person who learns and grows throughout life in general,” he said.
He has certainly continued to learn and grow ever since. In fact, his love of reading led him to launching a program to promote youth literacy and book ownership among students in underserved schools. The program, Read with Malcolm is part of the Share the Magic Foundation and has expanded exponentially over the years. He has also written a children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, about a boy who discovers the magic of reading.
It is exciting to see this young man experiencing success on the field, but seeing him focused on helping kids the way that principal and those women in the Silverleaf book club helped him. Now, THAT’s just “super.”
To find out more about the Read with Malcolm program, click here.
For the May 23, 2016 Boston Globe article about Malcolm Mitchell, click here.
When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my father brought an old Remington typewriter home from a yard sale or auction and set it atop the desk he had recently refinished for me (which sits in my front hall now). My very own typewriter. The result? The laboriously typed (with carbon paper) Maple Street Gazette which informed the neighbors of such riveting events as the Harrisons’ new puppies, the Lanagans’ new patio, who dressed up as what at Halloween, and more. Every issue was sold out (at a whopping five cents per copy). I guess it’s in the blood…