A totally unexpected thing happened to me during a student awards luncheon a couple of weeks ago.
I had just started to introduce Acel Moore, founder of the Acel Moore Career Development Workshop, an annual four-week program that introduces high school students to journalism.
I got to thinking about Acel, The Inquirer's retired Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and columnist, and how we first met way back in the early '80s when I was a student and he was a faculty member at the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at the University of California, Berkeley. I thought about how his guidance over the years inspired me to mentor students myself.
At the luncheon that afternoon, the prospect of professional life without mentors like Acel must have flashed in front of my eyes - along with the thousands of aimless kids whose success may hinge on that one person who believes in them more than they believe in themselves.
At that point, emotion took over. For a moment, I got so choked up I could not speak.
Anybody who knows me knows that was a first.
Jermaine Bromell made me ponder that moment again as we talked about the importance of mentoring the other day.
Bromell, 38, created the Score 4 Scholarships Basketball Tournament, which tips off Sunday, April 15, at the Palestra. Over the last six years, the tournament has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships for a program that is close to Bromell's heart - Philadelphia Scholars.
See, Philadelphia Scholars was to Bromell what Acel and the Summer Program for Minority Journalists were to me.
An anchor. A place of encouragement. A place, as Bromell says, "to navigate the waters."
Bromell grew up not unlike a lot of Philly kids - plenty smart, and a smart aleck to boot.
"I was more interested in telling jokes than sitting in class," he admits.
Despite majoring in class clown, Bromell's grades were still good enough to get him into college.
Problem was, he didn't know how to get into college. There he was, a junior at Bartram High School, and he didn't even realize he was supposed to take the SAT.
Enter the Philadelphia Education Fund. Through its College Access program, guidance counselors were provided to help Bromell navigate the process. And once he got into Villanova, the fund gave him a four-year "Last Dollar Scholarship" through its Philadelphia Scholars program.
"After I graduated from Villanova, the Scholars program asked me to come back to speak," Bromell recalls with a smile. "I thought it would be a nice symbolic gesture to give back."
Right on the spot, he wrote a check - for $50.
"My heart was in the right place even if my wallet wasn't there yet," he says with a grin.
Bromell's come a long way since then. He went on to earn an M.B.A. at Temple. The husband and new father now works as a surgical orthopedic sales representative. He also has served on the Education Fund advisory board since 1997.
"Jermaine is someone who's taken it upon himself to give back so kids can have the same opportunity," says David Baker, who is on the Education Fund's board of directors. "He's an impressive individual."
The 6-foot-4 Bromell is an early morning regular at the Sporting Club at the Bellevue, where professionals go to get their game on. Bromell has hooped with such heavy-hitters as restaurateur Marc Vetri and Mark Silow, a managing partner of Fox Rothschild. Both agreed to help sponsor the tournament during its infancy, allowing Bromell's idea to come to fruition.
"I'm proud of the event and how it's evolved," says Bromell, who has enlisted Penn coach Jerome Allen, St. Joseph's Phil Martelli, Drexel's Bruiser Flint, and former Sixers coach Larry Brown among the celebrity coaches.
This year, 17 teams are slated to play in the NCAA-style tourney at $1,400 a pop. Sponsors pay $3,500 - the cost of an average scholarship.
The tournament has the capacity for 24 teams. The more teams, the more Bromell can give back to the program that gave him his future.
It's the least he can do.
"It's a return on the investment for the educational opportunity they gave me," he says.
For more information on the Score 4 Scholarships Basketball Tournament go to Philaedfund.org
Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986 or Ajohnhall@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Annettejh.