Because of teacher collaboration sessions Wednesdays and Thursdays this academic school year, the Independence School District was looking for a way to keep student-athletes occupied and informed for the 45-minute period between the end of school and the start of their respective practice sessions.

The dilemma presented a challenge, and the challenge was answered by the Athletic Excellence Series, where a series of guest speakers visit Truman, Chrisman and Van Horn high schools, talking about hot button topics that will keep the students entertained and informed.

The series will take place each Wednesday during the school year with a study hall session providing extra study time on Thursdays.

UMKC men’s basketball coach Kareem Richardson visited Truman Wednesday afternoon and brought a message of hope to a rapt audience.

He talked about the rage he felt when his parents went through a divorce when he was just 12 years old. He stressed the importance of academics and responsibility when it comes to the ever-growing social media scene.

And he answered students’ questions with the same passion that made his 45-minute presentation so special.

“This is a special series for our students and we are so lucky to have a guest like Coach Richardson,” said Dale Herl, superintendent of the Independence School District who was on hand for Richardson’s presentation. “We believe it’s important to keep our students informed. The guest speakers who will be a part of this series have a lot to offer.”

Truman activities director Eric Holm backed Herl’s comments, adding, “It’s a great program and a great opportunity for our athletes – and other interested students – to hear from some special guest speakers.”

Along with the speakers, students are treated to a post-school snack of milk, a variety of grain products and peanut butter cups.

Richardson spoke from the heart as he talked about his career path, going from the rage of a broken home to being a much sought after assistant coach at Louisville that led to his role as a Division I head coach at UMKC.

“My mother and father divorced when I was 12 – I remember it like it was yesterday – and I was filled with rage,” said Richardson, who was an assistant coach under Rick Pitino on Louisville’s 2012-13 national championship team.

“I came home from school and all my dad’s stuff was gone. I was so PO’d. I was cold to my mom and didn’t speak to my dad for 20 years. But I found a way to turn that into a positive. My grades were slipping and I knew I had to pick them up so my mom – who was working two jobs – would not have to pay for my college.”

From the seventh grade through graduation he earned a 4.7 GPA on a 5.0 scale, earned a scholarship to East Carolina University and later transferred to Evansville, where he became the Purple Aces’ top point guard.

“I enjoy coming to a school like Truman and visiting with the students,” said Richardson, who was greeted by a young man following his talk, who wanted to thank the coach for his visit. “See, something like that makes it all worthwhile to me.

“I know I can’t reach every student out there, but if I reach just one, I feel like I’m giving back to my community.”