What's Right With Our Schools: Bertlekamp Center

11:18 PM, Aug 26, 2011   |    comments
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With help from his family, a man with a voice all Vols fans know is giving back to the place where his sports' career first gained fame.

Leaders said the support will make a big difference to kids now an in the coming years. 

A Knox County High School with a record of success in athletics now has a new tool for off-field success. This week at Bearden High School, the school system handed out a big round of thank-yous to the Bertlekamp family. 

Bert Bertlekamp and his sister Lisa graduated from the school. Now, along with their family, they have set up an on-going annual donation to fund a new kind of enrichment program for student athletes and all students at their old stomping ground. 

"They care about education they care about our kids being sucessful and having a bright future and they're willing to put resources toward that, put their own time, effort and energy toward that - and that's something that's really important about our community and is a great asset here in Knox County," said Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre. 

The Bertlekamp name is one of the most recognizable ones in local sports and UT history. After being an all American basketball player at Bearden, Bert Bertlekamp went on to play at UT. 

He now has a home over the airwaves with the Vol Network. Before that, Bert's father Hank served as the Vol's team captain back in the 1950's. 

Bert Berklekamp's career in sports, first took shape at Bearden High School. His retired number 10 jersey marks the time in the 1970's when he made school history with 339 assists and 1472 career points. 

Now he is returning to his roots. "Bert has been a legend at Bearden High School and in the Bearden community and this is his way of just giving back," said Principal John Bartlett. 

"Hopefully it's something - that will make them, help them have a better and more productive life," said Bert.

A new computer lab along with tutoring program is now mandatory for all student athletes whose grades start to slip. "It holds them accountable for their grades - if they have a D or F - they have to get the tutoring they need to get back on the field to go do what they need to do," said Bartlett. 

Bertlekamp admits his latest gift, may not be the most popular. "The young people that are involved - they might not like it right now, because they didn't have to go to tutoring before - now if their grades go to a certain level - they have to - we I wouldn't' have liked it when I was playing..," said Bert. 

It is basically tough love to keep kids on their game, in the classroom, on the field and on the court. Above all it is about preparing them to face life beyond the halls of school. "Here we can, dust them off, put them back on their feet and give them a push forward a little bit - we can't do that in college so we'd rather do it here, we'd rather give them the skills here," said Bartlett.

"Regardless of it you're a ball player or not - you need, academics need to be important to you," said Bert. That is the legacy this already legendary alumni is hoping to be know for. The Center will operate with funds donated annually by Bert Bertlekamp and his family. 

Although the facility is designed for student athletics, Bearden officials said all students will be welcome.

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