Come May 17 at Golden Gate Cathedral, Kiara Chamber won’t be blocking shots or converting turnaround jumpers in the lane, something she’s has done on numerous occasions as a basketball standout at Memphis Academy of Health Science High School.
Instead, she will be addressing her fellow graduates as the school’s valedictorian.
“I don’t know,” Chambers told MemphiSport, when asked what she will speak about when giving her speech. “I want to make somebody cry.”
That Chambers, the Lions’ small forward who garnered an array of accolades as a hoops standout in recent years, seems primed to deliver what she hopes is a tear-jerking speech to the MAHS graduating seniors in the coming weeks is only befitting for a scholar athlete who has defied an assortment of odds.
For starters, Chambers’ mother, Shuria Holmes, instilled in her daughter the importance of making logical decisions, let alone lessoning the 17-year-old on abstaining from making the same ill-advised choices she made as a teenager.
Holmes gave birth to Chambers in 1996, six months before she graduated from Treadwell High. That her teenage pregnancy was a familiar trend within the four walls of a school that was housed in the heart of poverty-stricken North Memphis, Holmes contends that having a child at such a young age didn’t deter her from achieving her educational endeavors.
“I’m very proud of (Chambers) because I knew how it was when I graduated from (high school),” Holmes said. “When I graduated, I had her on my hip. And to see her get valedictorian, to me that’s a special achievement for any high school student. She’s looking at her future.”
To her credit, Holmes never gave up on hers.
Upon graduating from Treadwell, Holmes enrolled in State Technical Institute of Memphis (now Southwest Tennessee Community College), where she earned a full scholarship. Currently, she is pursuing her master’s degree in Health Care Administration from Ashford University.
For Chambers, seeing her mother persevere and clear a slew of hurdles since she was born is something by which she figures to share with her classmates when her name is called to give her valedictorian address.
“My mother and I have been through a lot together before my little sister came along,” Chambers said. “We had gone back and forth living in an apartment with grandmother. I wanted to do better. I didn’t want her to pay for my college education because I wanted to show her that I appreciate her for giving me life.”
After having compiled MAHS’s highest cumulative grade point average at 4.2, Chambers has all but landed an academic scholarship. In the fall, she will attend Wesleyan College For Women in Macon, Georgia, where she plans to major in Broadcast Journalism.
Named a Commercial Appeal’s Best of the Preps athlete last year, the 5-foot-11 Chambers said she would like to continue playing basketball at the collegiate level. She feels confident in her chances of ultimately being offered an athletic scholarship, given she and Wesleyan coach Mike Walton have kept in contact although they have yet to officially meet.
“It’s exciting because I will be competing with girls from overseas,” Chambers said of being accepted to attend Wesleyan. “That school didn’t really look at girls from Memphis. People in Tennessee always tried to convince people to go to schools in the state. But when I went to visit (Wesleyan) in February, I didn’t get to meet the coach because they had a game that day.”
If offered a chance to play basketball for the Wolves, the team would be acquiring a player who can play multiple positions and assume a facilitator’s role on the floor. Chambers was MAHS’s leading scorer for the past three seasons. Her grandest display came when she led the Lady Lions to the MIAA city championship game as a junior.
In assessing her prep career, she attributes a majority of progress on the court to former MAHS coach Joe Woods, whom Chambers said is responsible for helping her upgrade her mechanics.
“With him, I learned more than I could have ever learned from anybody,” Chambers said of Woods, who left MAHS following her sophomore year. “I’m very grateful. I thank him for all of my accomplishments.”
When she suits up in her cap and gown to deliver the valedictorian address in the coming weeks, among the things about which she will be guilty of is paying homage to her mother, her grandest cheerleader who defied an array of odds despite giving birth as a high school teen.
So who are among the spectators who will be unleashing tears of joy come May 17?
“I’m going to be that person,” Holmes said.
What a difference 17 years have made.