HW Assignment Leads Student to Meeting his Hero

Homework Assignment Leads OFHS Student to Meeting his Hero

Homework assignment leads Oak Forest HS Student to meeting his hero


When Dan Larsen walks into a classroom, both teachers and students take notice. Not only is he extremely tall, but his deep voice also fills every corner of the room, and thus, in his 4th-hour class, it is his voice that enters his English classroom first, faintly and then louder, until he physically enters with a grin at the gathered people in the room, and saunters to his desk and folds himself into it.

Larsen’s like any Senior at Oak Forest High School. When his College and Career Ready Composition teacher Laurie Genardo assigned the class a research project that involved interviewing a subject of their choice, he sighed along with the rest of the class.

Wracking his brain, he complained to Genardo that he couldn’t think of anyone to interview. She challenged Larsen to find someone that he admired to interview that was off the beaten path he really, really wanted to interview. The challenge made Dan stop and think.

Who did Larsen admire? Who would he LOVE to interview?

He threw out a name just to gauge Mrs. Genardo’s reaction. He jokingly said, “I’m going to interview Stacey King.” Now, most old people (in their 40’s and 50’s) would know Stacey King as the center of the Chicago Bulls during the 1991-1993 Jordan-era Championship seasons. However, Larsen knows Stacey King best as the local NBC Chicago Bulls popular play-by-play commentator. 

Genardo said, “Use those social media skills of yours. Send him a private message or tweet him or whatever.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Larsen took to Instagram and Twitter and sent King DM’s and also sent some sportswriters messages explaining what he was trying to do and asking for their help.

Larsen said, “Within a couple of hours, I had [made contact] with King and he had agreed to talk to me!” The sort of scary part of this deal is that King arranged to talk to Larsen during his 8th-hour class THAT SAME DAY! So this idea had gone from just throwing it out as a funny idea in front of his English teacher to gauge her reaction to talking to his hero on the same day. It was so quick, though, that Larsen had very little time to get nervous.

Dan Larsen’s mother, Tracey Larsen of Midlothian, was not surprised in the least when she found out what he had done in order to get in touch with Stacey King. “I’ve always told my kids that ‘you won’t know until you ask/try something.’ If you ask, the answer might be yes, but if you don’t, the answer is always no. So it’s nice to know he was at least listening! We are extremely proud of Dan for his ingenuity and stepping out of his comfort zone to begin the dialogue with Stacey King. Never would I have thought it would come to anything, but it did and who knows where it might lead in the future. Sounds like an awesome networking opportunity to me!”

When Larsen talked to Stacey King, Larsen said that King “was very generous with his time. He told me to take my time because he was not busy.” 

So Larsen went to work and talked to his hero about his broadcasting career, his education, his life with the Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves, how he started in broadcasting, and how learned to call basketball.

Mrs. Larsen was very impressed with the time that Stacey King spent talking to her son about his broadcasting career and its various requirements and responsibilities. She said, “As far as Mr. King, I’ve told anyone who will listen to the story because I want the world to know that he’s not only a great basketball player and sportscaster but a great human being. In our terribly divided and troubled world, it is wonderful to know there are still good, genuine people out there. There are people who don’t have to go above and beyond, but do so because of their good heart and that is Stacey King. I am grateful to him for giving up his valuable time to speak to Dan, both answering questions and giving him tips for success in the future. The world needs more people like Stacey King.”

Being a broadcaster is what Larsen spent the majority of his time talking to Mr. King about being a broadcast journalist is Larsen’s dream job and what Larsen is setting his career sights on one day. To do this, Larsen plans to major in journalism and broadcasting and he intends to go to Ball State University in the fall after he graduates to pursue that field of study there.

Back to the paper assigned by Mrs. Genardo: this is not just an “interview a hero” paper, this is an “interview a person in the field you wish to pursue” paper. According to teacher Genardo, “Students need to do a nonfiction narrative of a person with an interesting need to interview someone with an interesting career journey to them. Some students interview teachers, friends, coworkers, relatives, people they locate on the internet, but this is the first sports celebrity that a student in my class has interviewed for this project.”

King gave Larsen advice about learning the art of broadcasting. Larsen said that King told him, “Be yourself, take pointers, be passionate about the job, don’t be dull, and be the exciting person. King took pointers from broadcasters Kevin Harlan and Kevin Funk and looked at their style, watched them, and incorporated what he liked into his own style and grew out of that.”

Larsen came to school the next day and told Genardo and his classmates to their surprise and celebration, “I got to talk to Stacy King for like 45 minutes yesterday during 8th-hour class! He got back to me based on my DM’s!”

She said, “He produced a phenomenal essay about the man and asked, ‘Should I send my essay to Stacy king?’ I said, Absolutely. And he did!”

“I knew that Dan was going to be a commensurate professional in the whole thing. Dan is so mature and I knew he would have a great conversation with Mr. King and would be a great representation of OFHS,” said Genardo. “That’s the cool possibility of an assignment like this. You’re connecting with people you would normally not connect with. That’s kind of what makes this assignment unique. There’s no other class like this because they’re learning to write and structure an essay but they’re looking at a career pathway at the same time and it helps them to evaluate the career pathway and synthesize all of the information they gather from their sources.”

Larsen’s takeaway from this whole project? He said, “Getting the opportunity to get a call from him was an amazing thing. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”


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