Photo by Bill Roseberry
JaQuail Townser, a 2012 graduate of Alton High School, will be a senior this season for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks of the Ohio Valley Conference. Townser has teamed with 2013 AHS grad and current Baker College basketball player Tyrome Parker to use their influence to form RICH (Realize It Can Happen), a program to help youths recognize their potential in Alton.
JaQuail Townser and Tyrome Parker had a resourceful idea to give back something to local youths. Now, the Alton High School graduates have expanded their payback plan and put it into practice.
They have formed RICH, or Realize It Can Happen. Their goal is to point youngsters in the right direction and keep them on the path toward success.
“The sole purpose is to keep young men joined together as a family, pursue a dream and carry out that goal,” Townser said. “It has nothing to do with money.”
And it has everything to do with a support system.
A’Basa Brown, Aaron Womack, Larry Givens, Chance Hill, Lavonte Hobbs, Hasaun Hobbs, Nigel Harris, Josh Lovings, Solomon Hill, Aaron Miller, Tyler McLemore, Kevin Wade, Demonte Wigfall, Jordan London, Matthew Wilson, Pat Woodard and Qu’ran Clanton-El have teamed together with them to get the ball rolling. They are all AHS products.
“We are a group of lifelong friends that have played sports together as kids to adulthood,” said Townser, a senior and starting guard for the Jacksonville State basketball team.
He added: “Growing up in the Alton community, we never really had role models to lead us in the right direction we needed to go. We had to learn on our own how to become educated young men and maintain our education level to get ahead.
“So we want to be role models and steer youngsters in the right direction.”
Parker, a guard at Baker University in Topeka, Kan., noted: “Our plan is try to give back to the community, give them (youths) opportunities and make sure we let them know we are there for them.
“We don’t really see it as a group. It’s more like a family. We all grew up together and we’re all smart enough to make something of ourselves.”
In addition to giving guidance, the RICH group seeks to play host to various events. It’s as much about action as it is instruction, Townser stressed.
“We have something going for August and it’s now in the planning stages,” he said. “Basically, we are trying to get things off the ground.”
Parker said, “We want to have basketball and football camps that are free for kids. The idea is to have activities like these to keep kids off the streets.”
Townser agreed. “We want to guide them in the right direction by having older male figures that they can look up to and learn from along the way,” he said. “We want them to know that we are doing positive things in the community and willing to give back the knowledge we obtained over the years.”
He has one more basketball season remaining at Jacksonville State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. Townser, who played his first two years at Southwestern Illinois Community College in Belleville, intends to finish with a flourish. He averaged 7.9 points, a team-best 3.3 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game for the 12-19 Gamecocks in ‘14-15. The 2012 AHS graduate, a business major, also shot 75 percent from the foul line.
Parker, a 2013 Redbirds’ grad, is rehabbing a torn left ACL and expects to be ready to return for his junior season at Baker. He averaged 7.4 points in 30 games,
“I had a very productive sophomore season, but the torn ACL has been tough on me mentally,” he said. “I had to sit out a few games.”
Yet he’s happy being at Baker and enjoying his time in the community.
“It reminds me of Alton. Everybody knows everybody,” said Parker, majoring in sports administration. He hopes to coach someday.
For more information on the RICH group, contact Townser at 972-1816 or Parker at 917-3123.