Founded in 2012, the Carolina Thunderbirds organization uses basketball as a vehicle to develop age 12 to 17 youth into reaching their potential in becoming better students as well as more well-rounded and positive contributors in society. Currently, the Thunderbirds consists of 30 African American students ranging from seventh to twelfth grades who attend school in Greenville and Laurens County, South Carolina. Having lived in South Carolina for 13 years, Mr. Eric Wimberly, founder, created the organization because of his passion for mentoring and counseling young people. He utilizes his previous experiences as a student-athlete to counsel as well as provide resources for the students relative to improving academics and problem solving/conflict-resolution skills.
The organization places high academic expectations on its students. Resources in the way of personnel and/or materials are routinely provided to improve the achievement of the participants. Student-athletes are expected to present their grades once or twice an academic quarter, and each student-athlete is expected to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of a 2.8 out of a 4.0 (C+). Should a student-athlete GPA fall below the minimum organizational requirement, he/she spends practice times engaging in tutoring sessions as well as academic workshops which consist of study skills/habits, organization, and/or classroom participation/engagement. Students may not participate in games until their GPA reaches or surpasses the organizational expectation.
While making good grades is critical in being successful, having good character is equally important in being a productive and successful citizen. The organization emphasizes character development through coaching, mentoring, and counseling. The founder as well as the coaches directly contact the schools as well as parents to monitor the behavioral progress (conduct) of each participant in the academic and home settings. Any student participant that receives consistent referrals and continuously engages in behavioral infractions that negatively impact the school and/or home setting is required to spend practice times in character development workshops. These workshops present core principles that help the student-athlete to become a better problem solver and to increase his/her ability to more fluently resolve conflicts. Student-athletes are not allowed to participate in games until reasonable and notable improvement is seen.