Chicago • In 2018, tuition at Greenwich Country Day School cost $40,125 per year for fourth-graders, according to their website.
It was a little cheaper back when Donovan Mitchell went there as a child, but not much. The school gives financial aid to some students, but only about 17 percent of the student body.
You should also know this: By all accounts, Greenwich Country Day School is fantastic. It has a five-star rating on GreatSchools.org, a five-star rating on Google. Its teachers earn a 4.6 rating on RateMyTeachers.com. Deborah Peart is one of those teachers; she taught fourth grade to Mitchell and his sister Jordan at GCDS.
But Donovan, Jordan, and Peart’s daughter Naja Brooks didn’t always feel like the rest of the kids at GCDS. The Mitchells’ mother, Nicole, also was a teacher. The Mitchells and Pearts didn’t necessarily have the lives of luxury that their peers did. Many times, they stayed after school for hours on end — Donovan says up to six hours after school — just hanging out, doing homework, and yes, playing basketball, as their families worked to make the money needed to keep them in school. The families worked where they could to share the dress clothes needed to attend.
“Yeah, I went to private school, but it was expensive. It wasn’t the easiest. You need pants, dress clothes, all that stuff. Naja was there to help Jordan out when we needed it, and her brother helped me out,” Mitchell said. “That’s the stuff I remember more than the stuff in the classroom.”
The sacrifice Nicole Mitchell and Deborah Paert made paid off, though. You know of Donovan’s wildly successful NBA career; he certainly stands to make in the hundreds of millions of dollars during it. For Naja, she’s a talented artist: She studies illustration at the Savannah College of Arts and Design. SCAD doesn’t come with the fame of the NBA, but it’s a very good institution; it was named the top creative school in the world in 2017 for motion graphics. It also earned the top spot in the “Red Dot Design Rankings."
But SCAD, too, costs a lot of money, and as much as Deborah and Naja tried to make her senior year work financially, their circumstances changed and it was clear that affording it would be really tough. Nicole Mitchell heard about this, told Donovan about it, and everyone agreed Naja would be a perfect first recipient for Donovan’s new foundation, SPIDACARES. The foundation’s stated goal is to empower women from all walks of life, and here was a clear opportunity to enact one of the “random acts of kindness” his charity wants to be known for.
So the Mitchells invited Deborah and Naja to the Jazz’s game against the Hawks in nearby Atlanta, under the pretense of catching up. “Honestly, I was just excited to come out to actually just support him because I hadn’t seen him in forever,” Brooks said. They also got courtside seats.
And then, after the game, Donovan presented a $25K check to Naja. Mitchell’s foundation gave some of the money, and Adidas and Footlocker matched Mitchell’s donation.
Naja began to cry. “We go way back,” she said. “Humble beginnings to big league. And he’s still the same generous kind of guy.”
Donovan said the decision was simple. “None of us expected to be in this position. Being able to understand that she needed that money to graduate, I’m in a position where I can help out. It’s just a no-brainer,” he said. “If it wasn’t for basketball, I would need money to graduate.”
And more of this is coming through SPIDACARES, Donovan said. “I didn’t expect to be here. Why not use my platform to speak out and give back? This is the first of many. This won’t be the last.”
JAZZ VS. BULLS
At United Center
Tipoff • Saturday, 6 p.m.
TV • ATTSN
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 42-30; Bulls 21-52
Last meeting • Jazz, 110-102 (Jan 12)
About the Jazz • Dante Exum is out due to a partially torn patellar tendon. … Grayson Allen has been assigned to the G League SLC Stars. … Donovan Mitchell scored 30 or more points against both the Knicks and the Hawks. … Prior to Mitchell, the last Jazz player to score 30+ points on back-to-back road games was Carlos Boozer in November 2007, according to Elias
About the Bulls • Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb), Chandler Hutchison (toe), and Denzel Valentine (ankle) are out for the game against the Jazz. … Otto Porter Jr. is doubtful thanks to a shoulder strain. … Kris Dunn (back) and Zach Lavine (thigh and knee) are questionable. … Among healthy players, Lauri Markkanen leads the Bulls with 18.9 points per game