More than an athlete

Sierra's High School's Imani Grigsby (center) scraps to keep possession while Harrison's CJ Harris (left) and Jaylean Franck dive for the ball at Thorpe Gymnasium. Harrison defeated rival Sierra Feb. 29 in their Class 4A second round matchup and advanced to the Sweet 16.

The Class 4A state basketball playoffs didn’t end how Harrison High School senior Jaylean Franck hoped, but off the court, he strives to assure his career outside the lines proceeds as planned.

The Panthers senior emerged from the locker room March 4 at Thorpe Gymnasium with his head held high, proud of what the team accomplished. Franck could see that the 58-54 loss to Pueblo West symbolized the end of a chapter — not of his story. 

“Jaylean’s accomplishments as a young leader at Harrison High School demonstrate his will to succeed, leadership ability and respect amongst his peers and youth,” said Terrell Brown, Hillside Connection president and CEO. “Jaylean has been a reliable teammate who strives to be the best version of himself, while also making a true difference in the quality of life for others in his community.” 

Franck works for Hillside Connection, where he has numerous responsibilities, including facilitating free basketball clinics for more than 80 at-risk boys, helping with social media and assisting the board of directors. 

Along with his work at Hillside Connection, Franck has also volunteered for Colorado Springs Police Academy, for the 2019 Care and Share Thanksgiving food bank at Pikes Peak Elementary School and for Morgan Memorial Church of God. 

He became a member of the National Honor Society in 2014 and maintains a 3.0 GPA. 

“Jaylean is grounded with family values, faith and discipline that allow him … to set an example for his peers,” said Panthers basketball coach Eric Kaiser. “His desire to succeed is a true testament of his school performance, body language and positive outlook on life. I look forward to seeing him grow and create his legacy.”

Franck’s work ethic also caught the eye of former United States President Barack Obama. In July 2017, the 44th president responded to a letter Franck wrote him six months earlier.

“Your generation holds the greatest stake in our future and a primary role in shaping it, and, in the coming years, Americans will look to you to help solve our most difficult challenges,” Obama wrote in the letter. “As long as you stay engaged in the world around you, continue to look for ways to help others and never give up on yourself, I’m confident our future will be bright.” 

The response not only amazed the Panthers senior, it provided an unforgettable moment for Franck and his family. 

“(My mom) framed the envelope that he sent as well as his letter,” Franck said. “That letter was a blessing. It was surprising and a cool feeling to get those words from him.”

The message continues to rejuvenate Franck, as he displays his relentless attitude during his down time.

As of March 16, Harrison School District 2 indefinitely suspended all school-related activities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Rather than let his hair down, Franck continues to piece together his future. 

“Our school provided us with a scholarship packet so I’ve gone through that to see which scholarships I qualify for,” he said. “It’s been difficult. At this time of the year, scholarships are limited, but I’m still working on it. I’ve talked with my mentors and my parents to see my top options. I don’t want to settle for a college where I know I won’t push myself.”

He won’t become content either. Franck’s lessons extracted from his athletics career won’t wither as he builds his life, post-prep sports. 

“I’ll use it as a moment to cherish,” he said. “I’ll use those skills to better myself in other aspects of life: teamwork, communication, leadership. I can apply those same attributes to other things, like being a leader in the classroom or communicating with teachers and colleges to broaden my horizons.”



Marcus Hill is a reporter for the Southeast Express and Schriever Sentinel. He graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication.