Eager to uncover the future leaders of tomorrow, Nike has launched their Future Varsity program, a six-month immersive education program created to inspire African American youth leaders who are using the power of sports to make a positive impact in their communities, promoting equality diversity and inclusion. Throughout the six months, 14 individuals will have access to mentors and other Nike resources to support, empower, and enable participants to pursue their goals and advance their causes.
On Sunday, Nike hosted the Youth Leader Discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, providing youth leaders a platform to further discuss their plans on how they’re bringing change to their communities. Featuring a quick Q&A with actress and activist Amandla Stenberg and moderated by Pretty Girls Sweat founder Aesha Devore Branch, the actress shared a few words on being young with a powerful voice and making a difference.
“Follow your passion,” said Stenberg. “Follow whatever calls you and push it. It doesn’t mean you have to take on too much. Take time to [cultivate] whatever you love.”
Highlighted participants during Sunday’s event include 12-year-old Compton native Kalli Minor. Inspired by the strength and power of role models like Serena Williams, her passion for tennis, and the lack of resources for tennis players in her hometown, Minor was encouraged to create Rally with Kalli which is expected to launch this Spring. Rally with Kalli is an organization dedicated to building tennis courts and providing mentorship and other resources to young athletes in the hopes of bringing the community together through the sport of tennis.
Jahkil Jackson, an 11-year-old Chicago native and one of Former President Barack Obama’s influential people of 2017, shared with the audience the importance and foundation of his organization, Project I Am. With a genuine desire to help those in need, Jackson started Project I Am at the age of eight to raise awareness of homelessness and provide aid to the homeless population with “Blessing Bags.” Blessing Bags contain essentials like wipes, socks, personal hygiene products, hand sanitizer, granola bars, bottled water, and more. Cities of distribution include Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Mdabne, Swaziland and many more. By the end of 2019 Project I Am is projected to have distributed 15,000 Blessing Bags since 2016.
Kenny Doss II, also a Chicago native, is another standout participant of Nike’s Future Varsity program. In addition to serving as a mentor in his Englewood community, hosting book bag drives, prom drives and providing haircuts for the children of his community, Doss is also running for political office. Doss is currently a 16th Ward Alderman candidate making him the youngest to ever be on the ballot. Doss is running with hopes to help provide the necessary resources to uplift his community.
Connecting activism and sports with the youth of the nation, Nike once again demonstrates they are more than just an apparel brand, but also a bridger, pushing the leaders of the future to answer their calling early in life and truly make a difference.