NEW YORK -- Standard business attire was atypically out of place on Wednesday morning, at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Manhattan.
Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson joined 150 high-performing college students -- all donning white T-shirts bearing the logo of Granderson's Grand Kids Foundation -- for a Back-To-School community event to support the Volunteers of America - Operation Backpack program. This initiative provides backpacks to New York City kids in homeless and domestic-violence shelters.
Granderson and the students, who were selected through an interview process as primary candidates to intern with PricewaterhouseCoopers next summer, teamed up to pack over 250 New Balance backpacks, stuffed with everything from school supplies to snacks.
Founded by Granderson in 2007, the Grand Kids Foundation aims to improve the educational experience for inner-city youths, as well as helping to re-establish baseball in their communities. But Granderson's drive to promote the importance of education didn't exactly come out of the blue.
As the son of two recently retired educators and the brother of an English professor at Jackson State University, Granderson is, as he jokingly puts it, the "black sheep" of the family. So despite his abilities as an athlete the three-time All-Star opted to earn his degrees -- he double majored in Business Management and Business Marketing at the University of Illinois-Chicago -- before he began his career in the Major Leagues.
"Education, no matter what form or fashion is always going to be the key to doing everything you need to," said Granderson, one of fewer than 50 current Major League players who have earned a four-year degree.
"When I went to school at Illinois-Chicago one of the big things about being a student-athlete was we had to volunteer our time. We did food drives, we helped the community clean up parks, things like that. The kids here are doing a great thing by getting school supplies into kids' hands who normally can't get any. They understand that it's not just about the books, it's also about giving back and they're learning that at a very young age and will hopefully continue to do so as they continue to grow."
Granderson also serves as the MLB spokesperson for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move anti-obesity campaign. The campaign aims to promote both exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet for children across the country. On Wednesday all 150 students in attendance were treated to a Let's Move inspired breakfast. Dole Food Company provided the breakfast décor -- a pile of 1,000 bananas -- which was later donated to City Harvest, New York City's food rescue organization.
"This is huge," said Anne Marie Moscarello, one of the 150 students in attendance. Moscarello, who is studying corporate finance in accounting, will begin her senior year at Bentley University in the fall.
"Education, like Curtis, is huge in my family. What he's doing for the inner city kids, I think is unbelievable. I love how everybody can be enthusiastic together. It's nice to know that I'm going to go into corporate finance in accounting, but I'm still doing great charity work to help other kids. I want them to value education as much as me and as much as Curtis."
Brendan Dougher, the New York Metro Region Managing Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said it's no coincidence that the 150 students selected to participate in the program are equally motivated to give back.
"Young people today, whether they go to college or not really care a lot about the community and are really focused on corporate responsibility, the environment and what you give back to the community," Dougher said. "A lot of what they evaluate their employers on is 'are they responsible and do they give back to the community?'"
The students were invited to watch Granderson and the Bombers take on the Blue Jays in Wednesday afternoon's series finale in the Bronx. After all of the backpacks were packed and ready to be sent out, the group departed for Yankee Stadium.
And even if it was just for a few hours, everybody in attendance on Wednesday morning got an inside look at what the Yankees' center fielder is really all about.
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.