Seth Batiste is a product of Houston’s Fifth Ward and he’s proud to call it home. He says many of the experiences he encountered as a youngster growing up in the north Houston neighborhood he calls “the bottoms” resulted in life lessons he benefits from everyday. Seth says there were plenty of challenges, but he was able to overcome them. He learned early that any success he would have, wouldn’t come easy. He discovered the power and the value of hard work. Seth and his wife are the proud parents of a young daughter.
Here’s Seth Batiste with his essay for Houston Public Radio’s This I Believe.
“I believe in second chances. Overcoming kidney failure, paralysis and the many other obstacles, I strongly assert that life is a series of lessons to be taught, and learned.
As a middle school student, I was deemed too little to play on the football team, but that didn’t stop me. I joined a community league team as a walk-on running back. That season, I averaged four touchdowns a game, winning the Junior League Championship as quarterback, running back and corner back. With 12 seconds left in the final game of the year, Coach called the same play on fourth down that we failed to capitalize on with any of our previous 3 downs. Despite the odds, I scored the winning touchdown as the coach and mentor who believed in me looked on.
As an adult, my belief in second chances led me back to the community where I grew up. Many students in my old Fifth Ward neighborhood did not see themselves as able to function outside of the closely knit section of dilapidated houses. While teaching in a poor section of the Fifth Ward known as “The Bottom”, located just northeast of downtown, I began a Boy Scout Troup to give the students at my elementary school something to do.
I soon found that a Cub Scout Troup was also warranted as many of the kids I cared for on excursions left behind younger siblings who they often cared for while parents worked. My drive to make a difference led me to begin a basketball team, the first ever at the school. The program quickly attracted about 40 players each day after school.
The Bruce Elementary Bulldog basketball team lost the first two games, but won every game after that, and eventually won the championship for the city’s East End. My goal on the court was the same as my message off the court:…I believe second chances make a difference.
Students were required to bring a signed weekly progress report before each game. Study hall for players lasted as long as our practice sessions. Students without homework were turned away to go retrieve an assignment, or they were given one. I taught reading, writing, arithmetic and of course, second chances.
The community where I served these students was the very community I attended high school. Phillis Wheatley High School is the alma mater of Mickey Leland, Barbara Jordan and a host of state representatives, and me, Seth Batiste.
I believe in second chances because the first chance that came along was not my last. This, I believe.”