Standing in the frigid cold under the lights of the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl Half Time Ceremony, Isa Khan couldn’t help but laugh. At that moment, Isa was being recognized as a recipient of the prestigious MVP Scholar Athlete Award for his accomplishments as a student and a lacrosse player, something he had never imagined possible. In fact, his middle school soccer coach once told him and his teammate that they would never make it as athletes. Over four years later, Isa and that very teammate were standing together as they were honored with the PSAL’s highest award. Isa recalls that moment during the ceremony: “We saw each other and just started laughing, because there we were a few years later, both of us on the Yankee Stadium field, being honored for our athletic achievements. But looking back, I think that comment is what drove me to be a better athlete.”
Every year, each high school in the five boroughs of New York City nominates one boy and one girl student-athlete as candidates for the NYC PSAL’s highest honor, the MVP Scholar Athlete Award. Out of over 10,000 student-athletes in the PSAL, 55 are chosen for their outstanding academic and athletic achievements. These student-athletes must also exemplify the values of the PSAL, including preparation, discipline, leadership, team spirit, community, and scholarship. This year, one of those chosen student-athletes was Isa Khan, a CityLax member who attends James Madison High School.
For CityLax Founder, Mat Levine, the news of Isa Khan’s recognition held special significance for him. Isa Khan is the first CityLax player to receive the MVP Scholar Athlete Award, a nod to how far the nonprofit organization has come since its establishment in 2006. Levine says, “Isa is a shining example of what CityLax stands for. He is passionate about the game and his academic future. He has been an ardent participant in Citylax/PSAL lacrosse programs over the last two years, propelling him toward his goal to graduate with a strong academic record and gain acceptance to colleges of his choice. To see a young man utilize lacrosse and its educational opportunities given by CityLax’s programs at the very same high school where my family has roots is a special feeling for me.”
Not only is Isa a talented lacrosse player and excellent student, he’s also a driven and compassionate member of his community. Isa is the Student Union Vice-President at James Madison and is also the leader of the Health & Wellness Committee of his district’s Youth Leadership Council. As Team Leader, Isa oversees the inter-borough group of students and is working to improve the health and wellness curricula in NYC public schools. “At the moment, only a very small fraction of our health classes cover mental health, even though it should really be given equal weight to physical health and nutrition,” Isa explains. “So, part of what we’re working on is a plan to revamp the curriculum by balancing the content 50-50 for physical and mental health.” The students meet regularly with each other and then propose their ideas to the Board of Education, which intends to use the students’ input to shape policies for the NYC public school system. Through this program, the students are able to have a real impact on their community, something that Isa strives to do in every aspect of his life.
On the field, Isa is dedicated to becoming the best player that he can be. A natural leader, he is eager to take advantage of every opportunity to help strengthen his team, including regularly organizing off-season practices for his teammates. He credits CityLax with helping him to become the athlete that he is today. “I honestly could never have been where I am as an athlete or a lacrosse player if it wasn’t for CityLax,” Isa says. “CityLax gave me the basics, rolling out clinics that kept me in shape and playing during the off-season. And then, when I was ready to take it to the next level, they helped provide that, too.” This past summer, Isa attended the MetroLacrosse SummerBounce Camp through a CityLax athletic scholarship. He claims that this experience was a pivotal moment in his lacrosse career, because it was there that he learned how to face off from MLL star, Casey Dord. Isa discovered he had a knack for the face-off and has since been working to perfect his skills during the off-season so that he can enter the spring as a FOGO. “If it weren’t for CityLax,” he recalls, “I never would’ve gone to that camp and realized that I’m a really good FOGO.”
A true team player, Isa is excited about what receiving this award means for James Madison lacrosse. When asked how he felt to be honored as a PSAL MVP Scholar Athlete, Isa replied, “It means a lot to me to be chosen out of thousands of student-athletes and among players who are probably the best in the city. To just have been nominated…I have a lot of hope for my team that we’re getting better and better. I’m happy to see such an achievement after all the hard work these past few years.”
As Isa gets ready for his final high school lacrosse season and thinks back on how far he’s come since his middle school soccer days, he says, “I guess the lesson is just never give up on the dream that you want. Never give up on the ‘you’ that you want to become.”