The Perkins Perspective | (Sub)Urban | Autumn 2012


Bringing Hope Through Hoops

Dagim Haile-Leul and Seattle's mayor Mike McGinn

By Dagmawi Haile-Leul, SPU Senior


My name is Dagmawi Haile-Leul. I transferred to Seattle Pacific University as a junior, and will graduate in June 2013. But even before I came to SPU, I began working to address youth violence in Seattle.


Six years ago, I began Hoops 4 Hope, an annual basketball tournament that gathers youth from all parts of town. By using athletics, Hoops 4 Hope raises awareness about gun violence with the help of guest speakers, a basketball tournament, father/son and mother/daughter sports, and dance crews. It's fun with a serious purpose.

My inspiration was personal. My cousin, Yonas, was a victim of gun violence when a stray bullet fired during a drive-by shooting changed his life forever. Now, over the past four years, we have raised over $20,000 for victims of gun violence. We have even created a scholarship foundation for under-represented teens who wish to pursue higher education. Hoops 4 Hope works to keep kids from becoming victims.


This past August, Hoops 4 Hope was held on the SPU campus, with more than 350 people attending — including Seattle's Mayor Mike McGinn. Speakers included KUBE 93 radio personality Eddie Francis, Larry Gossett, council chair and councilman for King County’s second district, and Tali Hairston, director of the John Perkins Center at SPU, who told the teens: "Carry over the ability to play above the rim on the court, to playing above the rim in every day life.”


Throughout the day, kids approached me to say how they planned to approach their new school year with Tali's words in mind, as well as serve others in their own communities. All told, the event allowed young people to grieve together about the cost of gun violence, and establish bonds with one another. Ultimately, 242 young people committed to become pillars of peace and help end gun violence in our communities.


A Second Inspiration

I transferred to Seattle Pacific from Xavier University because I fell in the love with the vision "Engaging the culture, and changing the world." Although I’m a Global Development major, I took the business class “Social Venture Planning,” and had the honor to work with Dr. Don Summers, an SPU executive in residence. He truly inspired me to see that class as an opportunity to create a professional plan to carry out in real life. Through countless late nights working on it, and with Dr. Summers’ reviews and revisions, I was finally proud to present our work to SPU, to Seattle, and to the world.

Dr. Summers passed away in March 2012, but he sparked a flame in me for passionate service. He shared his wealth of experience and had a willingness to form a relationship in a classroom setting. I will never forget him or his legacy. As a first generation Ethiopian-American, I see the potential for a blend of cultures being engaged and the world being changed.

On August 18, 2012, we saw hundreds of guests on hand to support this cause. This was our first year at SPU and, with Dr. Summers watching from heaven — along with the 25 victims of gun violence already this year in Seattle — we were dedicated to making them proud!



Dagmawi Haile-Leul

Dagmawi "Chevy" Haile-Leul is second-generation Etheopian, and he graduated from Seattle's Garfield High School. He is now an SPU senior majoring in Global Development. After graduating in June 2013, he hopes to work at SPU. "I truly believe there are unique opportunities to 'engage the culture and change the world' through SPU, and I pray that I may be a part of this for a long time to come."




Editor's note: Bringing Hope Through Hoops was first published in Seattle Pacific University's Small Change, Big Impact.


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