Helping Kids Dream Like a Mann
When Lawrence Mann’s five-year-old son was facing life-threatening open-heart surgery in 1996, Lawrence said he made a deal with God. If his son’s life was saved, Lawrence vowed to give back and help turn lives around for young people in Collin County.
The next chapter of this story began that same year as Lawrence founded TopAchievers Foundation, a Plano faith-based sports development, leadership and academic support organization. The non-profit TopAchievers provides fitness, skills and team programs, and at the same time offers financial sponsorships for disadvantaged youth.
“It’s all part of God’s plan,” Lawrence explained. “We have had kids in our community who have gone on from TopAchievers to become doctors, teachers and community leaders. We have modern-day heroes right here. You don’t have to go far to find them.”
Basketball teams organized through TopAchievers offer athletes ways to be involved on teams where they receive mentoring and guidance from coaches. Not everyone in TopAchievers is involved in athletics, though.
“I know the students and remember when the kids had a dream but went through tough times,” he said. “The real outcome is to see them go out and make a difference in this world.”
Lawrence said TopAchievers is also a resource hub for children in Collin County. Leadership camps, such as the one led by Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, offer students expertise in developing leadership skills. The students also go on college visits where both athletes and non-athletes can become exposed to the college environment.
TopAchievers’ participants receive mentoring, leadership training, SAT preparation, STEAM program activities and tutoring as well as many other benefits. Since 2006, 95 percent of students who have participated went on to college, with 90 percent of students graduating. Approximately 80 percent of students in the program are ethnic minorities.
Lawrence said approximately 500 students in Plano ISD are homeless, and a growing number of families are economically disadvantaged. Students are referred to the program, often through their schools. Lawrence also works as an at-risk specialist in Plano ISD, so he knows many of the TopAchievers students well.
“My kids are PISD kids, and PISD kids are my kids,” he added. “I love partnering with PISD.”
Approximately 75 students are active in the program this year, but TopAchievers has served more than 100,000 young people since its inception more than 20 years ago.
One young man recently completed the TopAchievers program and went on to play basketball at a major Texas university. His father was paralyzed a few years earlier in a car accident, so this young man used the coaching and mentoring offered to help him fulfill his college dream.
Then last year, the basketball star was suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. Even after this setback, this young man has returned to practice and is hoping to be playing the game again in the Fall.
“All of this,” Lawrence said, “has motivated me to showcase his talent.”
The foundation’s funding comes from donations, so the upcoming TopAchievers Foundation Gala June 23 is crucial to the program. Stephen Howard, former NBA player and current ESPN host, will serve as Master of Ceremonies at the event from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at the Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center. Formal attire is required at the fourth annual gala which will feature live and silent auctions, dinner, entertainment and an awards presentation.
Lawrence is hoping to raise $100,000 through the event, which will supplement regular annual donations.
“At the gala, we will tell stories of others. Data can show measurable outcome about our students, but at the gala we can do more than show data,” he said. “We can show you the kid.”TopAchievers >