As a youngster, Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell vividly recalls late-night treks with his mother Nicole Mitchell to the grocery store and office supply store to pick up some last-minute items for the upcoming school year.

His mother Nicole Mitchell is a preschool teacher, one of the most important but overlooked (and overworked and underpaid and ... we’ll save that column for another day) jobs in America.

It is a job that far too often requires teachers to not only sacrifice their time beyond official school hours but also provide supplies for their classrooms.

This has been an ongoing issue for educators across the country for decades, particularly in underserved and often, underfunded communities.

And with the global pandemic of 2020 (and beyond, unfortunately), that only exacerbated the problem.

The Mitchells wanted to help and found a willing partner in Clorox.

During this back-to-school season, Donovan is helping Clorox celebrate teachers through the brand’s $1 million donation to DonorsChoose which will help get funds to teachers so they can clear their supply wish lists for classrooms this year.

Clorox conducted a nationwide survey among 1,000 U.S. educators. Here’s what they found.

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of the teachers surveyed said they spent more of their personal funds in the past year because of the pandemic.
  • Of those surveyed, 61 percent feel their students miss out on learning because they don’t have the supplies they need.
  • On average, teachers spend more than $500 out of their own pockets to adequately stock their classrooms.

The Utah Jazz All-Star sat down for an exclusive one-on-one interview with EBONY to talk about his partnership with Clorox, the role education plays in his life as an NBA star, as well as his thoughts on the upcoming NBA season and the new-look (and older) Los Angeles Lakers.

EBONY: What motivated you to get involved with this particular initiative with Clorox?

Donovan Mitchell: I’ve always had A fond appreciation of teachers. They’ve had a major impact in my life; obviously, my mom being one of them. But watching her do that (teach preschoolers virtually) and continue to put in the work, being up at 1 am, being ready for that 8 am class. That to me is what made this a no-brainer.

I’m sure you have memories of going shopping for school supplies as a youth. I would imagine those memories include your mom coming out of her pocket and shopping for supplies for her students as well.

The funniest ones were late Sunday night trips where we would go to Stop-N-Shop ... and then we go to Staples, making sure we get there before 9 o’clock. You don’t understand those things at the time, but when you look back... that’s why when this opportunity came, to not only show appreciation but give back, continue to bring awareness, we were elated to do this.

What’s your message to young people when it comes to education?

Education takes you farther than anything. Basketball has brought me into situations I’m blessed to be in. I’m blessed to have the life I live to be able to take care of my family. But at the end of the day, the ball will run out. Being a celebrity, being famous is great. I’m still doing stuff through school as well. It’s not like we just hoopin’ and go to sleep. Everything we do revolves around school. And that’s not just for athletes. That’s for everybody in life.

But being young, rich and in the spotlight, how do you keep yourself motivated to keep your thirst for education?

As a competitor, you always want to be the best. You find ways in basketball. Now, I just discovered it in golf. I want to get better in golf. Being able to understand the business of basketball—understanding the business of the life I live, if I stepped away from the game, I’d be good for life and that’s great. But how do I capitalize on that? How do I [do] more? And how do I do that through basketball, off the floor?

What are your thoughts on the new-look Los Angeles Lakers who are a little more seasoned than we’ve seen in past years?

The biggest thing is when the time comes we have to be ready for it—not to say we weren’t [last season] or haven’t been. But just continue to be ready for it. The Lakers have a solid team. Golden State is coming back. You can never count out a Damian Lillard-led team. Luka [Doncic] is...Luka. There are so many different teams. Phoenix is the reigning [Western] Conference champs. Denver has the MVP [Nikola Jokic]and that’s just the West. We have our work cut out for us, but so do other teams. We added some great pieces. For us to be the team we want to be, we have to continue to put the work in.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.