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Basketball star Yao Ming toured the flooded Hilliard Elementary School on Sept. 26 to show his support for HISD students suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Hilliard is among the “top 10” HISD schools damaged by the storm, and it will be months before students will be able to return.
Ming joined Hilliard Principal Edrick Moultry and HISD officials at the school, which took on four feet of water from nearby Halls Bayou. Also on the tour were HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza, Board President Wanda Adams, and Trustees Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Diana Dávila, Anna Eastman, and Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca.
Hilliard students have been relocated to the former Fonwood Early Childhood Center, which was vacated when Fonwood students moved to their new bond school, which opened in May of this year.
After the tour, the group moved to the Hilliard relocation campus, where they were greeted by Mayor Sylvester Turner and hundreds of enthusiastic Hilliard Wildcats in the cafetorium.
Principal Moultry welcomed his students and honored guests and introduced Superintendent Carranza, who thanked everyone for coming and supporting HISD during this difficult time.
After President Adams and Trustee Skillern-Jones spoke, Mayor Turner introduced Ming, saying “I want to thank Yao for coming all the way from China to make a contribution to our schools, our teachers, and our community. This guy was a superstar on the court, and today he is a superstar right here in our community!”
Ming announced that he is donating $100,000 to the mayor’s hurricane relief fund. The money will be used to support students and teachers and ensure they have the things they need to rebuild their lives and their schools.
“Today I look at every one of you, and I feel hope,” Ming said. “I see joy and confidence in your faces, and I believe with your faith, Houston will move forward and recover.”
After that, Ming answered a few questions from students. One asked what size show he wears (size 19) and another asked him about his favorite Houston restaurant (Taste of Texas). A third student asked what he bought with his first Rocket’s paycheck. “I went to Best Buy and bought a video game,” Ming said, and the crowd roared in response.
Ming, 37, was born in Shanghai and was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2002. In July 2011, he retired due to injuries but not before leading the Rockets to many playoff games and victories. In 2016, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and his number 11 jersey was retired by the Rockets. In February, Ming was appointed president of the Chinese Basketball Association.