Call it perfect timing or destiny, but former New York State Gov. David Paterson spoke at the High School for Sports Management (HSSM) in Brooklyn at the same time the AmNews planned a visit there.

Paterson spent his time in the third-floor library delivering a message about civil rights to the group of students, mostly Black and Latino males.

“When you think of sports management, you see players, you see management, you see owners,” said Paterson. Paterson told the story of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who signed Jackie Robinson, and Art Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers who helped introduce a rule in the NFL that required at least one candidate of color be interviewed for a head coach or general manager vacancy.

“He changed the world,” Paterson said of Rooney.

Located off the 25th Avenue stop of the D train in Brooklyn, inside Lafayette High School, HSSM is looking to change the world through sports. Opened in 2005 to 94 ninth graders and seven staff members, the school’s curriculum brings together the industry of sports management and the academic requirements to pass high school in New York City. Setting students on career paths like marketing, sports media, journalism, event planning and business operations, HSSM aims to help children appreciate what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to sports and entertainment.

“In 2005, the mayor [Michael Bloomberg] wanted to create 200 small schools,” said HSSM Principal Robin Pitts. “And we just happened to be the second cohort in the new school enterprise.” HSSM was originally located in Our Lady of Solace School in Coney Island but eventually moved to its current location. “It’s a program that’s college preparatory nursed in sports.”

More than 90 percent of the students are college-bound.

With constant images of people of color playing various sports and being involved in entertainment, it’s easy for kids to assume that’s the path to a better future, and Pitts wants her kids to see that there are so many things they can be besides the athlete on the field.

“Kids come here wanting to be the next Alex Rodriguez or the next LeBron James,” said Pitts. “But the reality is that if they had the skills, they wouldn’t be here. Somebody from middle school would’ve sucked them up and transitioned them into those powerhouse [athletic] programs.”

However, HSSM partners with some powerhouse programs of its own. With its Sports Industry Speaker Series, the school has attracted people like NBA Director of Marketing Saskia Sorrosa, Sylvia Lind of the MLB, Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner and other figures in sports who work behind the scenes instead of on the court.

“We have professionals come in,” said Pitts. “We have members of the NBA come, we have members of the Knicks, but none of them have been players. They’ve been project managers. There is something else that drives the sports industry other than LeBron banking it in from half-court. Who keeps the arena going? Who does the contract forms? You have all of this and you can still go to the games and have a connection to an industry that moves on with or without you.”

Pitts trains her students to know how to organize and do some of the grunt work, because doing what other people aren’t willing to do will make them successful. “I’d rather have the producer and marketer of Roc-A-Fella Records [speak to our kids] before Jay-Z,” said Pitts.

Starting in ninth grade, students take an “Intro to Sports Management Theory Class” where they talk about marketing, event planning, finance and utilizing Microsoft Office. In 10th grade, the focus turns to communications, resume writing, business, media and presentation. The goal is to become advanced in event planning and virtual enterprise by 12th grade and also engage in the stock market game to become acquainted with the world of finance.

So what do some of the kids think about HSSM?

“It teaches you about the stuff that’s behind the scenes,” said Josias Moulterie, a 12th grader at HSSM. “Everybody wants to be an athlete, but the chances are little to none, so this school shows you all the stuff you can do and still be in the business of the sports that you love, like promotional ads, marketing and stuff like that.” Moulterie wants to get involved in marketing as a career path.

“It’s opened up doors and opportunities for me,” said Conner Quinn, a graduate of HSSM who is now a sophomore studying sports management at St. John’s University. “When I was here, I worked with the Brooklyn Cyclones and it gave me a bit of a head start on the college curriculum. Some of the things that I did [at college] were things that I already did [at HSSM]. It got me a head start on the competition.”

“Recognize that even the games we play change the lives we live,” said Paterson at the end of his talk. HSSM students look to be well on their way.