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August 21, 2014, 2:00 pm

ESPN honors Phila. high school student-athletes

ESPN, the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles hosted The Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Series luncheon in advance of the Philadelphia Eagles–Chicago Bears game Nov. 7 at the Lincoln Financial Field.

The Chalk Talk honored two Philadelphia student-athletes, Monique Bowman from Jules Mastbaum High School and Martin Hicks from Arise Academy Charter High School, for the ESPN High School RISE ABOVE Award. These student-athletes have overcome challenges, and found the time to excel academically and help others in their community.

Bowman is a student-athlete playing both soccer and volleyball. She carries a 3.5 GPA, is involved in student government and works 30 hours a week at K-Mart helping to support her one-year-old son and younger siblings. Bowman says receiving this award makes her feel special. 

“Today, I feel like I’m famous. It makes you feel better about yourself when you get recognized for doing something that you never thought someone would recognize you for and just achieving your goals,” Bowman said.

Although Bowman was unsure if she would play sports after having her child, she says playing sports helps her emotionally to live a balanced life.

“At first when I had my son, I’m like, ‘No, I can’t go back. I don’t want to play anymore,’ but then I just realized that, that’s what I wanted to do, play sports.”

Bowman does have future plans to attend college at West Chester University and law school.

Hicks plays football and basketball as a part of a co-op program between Arise Academy and Ben Franklin High School. Growing up was extremely difficult for Hicks. With mental health issues and drug abuse, both his parents were unable to take care of him; leaving Hicks in the foster care system. After living in five different homes and attending multiple high schools, Hicks and his sisters were able to settle in a stable environment with their grandmother.

As starting linebacker and captain of his basketball team, Hicks says he is not used to all the attention he received, but he says it feels good.

“It makes me feel like it’s worth it and to just keep working hard,” Hicks said.

He has an uncle and two cousins who serve in the Navy and he plans to enlist after high school.

During their experiences at the Lincoln Financial Field, Bowman, Hicks and their friends and family took a behind-the-scenes tour and talked with ESPN executives about career opportunities in sports. Students learned about marketing, advertising, networking, internships and planning of events. Additionally, the group learned about the pre-production of Monday Night Football games. 

Alumni players from the Eagles and Bears were in attendance. Jevon Kearse, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook and Curtis Conway discussed their experiences playing in the NFL and other football topics.

In its fifth year, The Monday Night Football Chalk Talk Series began as a tradition in the 1970s. The tradition was that the on-air personalities in town covering the Monday Night Football game would share their insider analysis and experience with guests of the community. ESPN and the NFL revamped the Chalk Talk Series in 2007 to showcase the host cities participating in the weekly Monday night games. Additionally, student-athletes like Bowman and Hicks are honored for their achievements in school and off the field.