IDEA Carver students who won the David Robinson Fellowship pose for a photo with Spurs legend David Robinson.
IDEA Carver students who won the David Robinson Fellowship pose for a photo with Spurs legend David Robinson. Credit: Courtesy / IDEA Carver

Seeing San Antonio Spurs great David Robinson on campus at IDEA Carver isn’t particularly unusual for students.

“Since I’ve been here for a long time, when he comes to the school someone will say, ‘I just saw David Robinson in the hallway,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s the sixth time that’s happened,” senior Evelyn Biddy said. “It’s not that big of a deal because he is just a normal person and he doesn’t think he’s all that.”

A new program designed to cultivate student leaders through personal mentoring sessions with Robinson represents a whole new level of engagement with the Hall of Fame center who has worked to emphasize the value of education and leadership.

Through the new David Robinson Fellowship, 10 IDEA Carver students will receive financial aid, mentoring from Robinson, and leadership classes.

“I don’t want them to be like me,” Robinson, who founded the school as Carver Academy in 2001, said at the program’s launch on Sunday. “I’m not trying to make them clones of me. … They have a unique mission in their life, a unique calling, and our job is to help them find that passion, find that calling.”

The fellowship is a new program that seeks to instill leadership traits in students with the goal of creating a class of leaders that lifts up the home communities of its members.

Robinson’s motivation for starting the program was to equip students with the tools to succeed after IDEA, he said on Sunday.

A $192,000 donation from the Friends of Carver Academy/IDEA Public Schools supports the fellowships. The money will provide financial aid to students heading to college and can be used for tuition, textbooks, living expenses, or other education-related expenses.

That financial support will be accompanied with leadership training that will include Robinson. The former Spur will mentor fellows in roundtable sessions that offer opportunities for one-on-one advice and counseling.

“We are in a very particular part of town and we need leaders, and we need leaders that look and are like us,” said Felipe Butanda, who is co-director of the fellowship program. “If we are not representing ourselves, then someone else is representing [us]. By selecting these young men and women, we are guaranteeing that they will have leaders for many years to come.”

Fellows also will participate in weekend classes that focus on a variety of leadership skills, from learning the best way to shake hands to how to deliver an effective presentation.

A large part of the program is devoted to an individual project in which students seek to effect change in the surrounding community. The goal is for students to see projects through from conception to a progress report at the end.

While students don’t have to have their exact ideas formed just yet, many of the fellowship recipients have already been brainstorming.

“Our real goal is to make sure that along the way they find something they are passionate about,” Butanda said. “If we are able to accomplish that with these young men and women, our job is done because once you find your passion, you don’t need any more motivators.”

Biddy, who is interested in becoming a psychiatrist and enjoys learning about why certain people act differently than others, wants to create a community for people outside of their homes so if there isn’t enough support there, they can find a family elsewhere.

Senior Noah Martinez, who wants to study kinesiology in college next year, hopes to address the high rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the area. Bexar County ranked third in the state for the highest numbers of infections of sexually transmitted diseases, according to 2017 data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Through his project, Martinez wants to educate his peers about STDs and tell them about the resources available for testing and treatment.

Butanda said after the first class of fellows completes their programming, the goal is to have another class next year who can potentially adopt and sustain some of the previous projects.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.