SEED Project Grant Report
C.J. Watson Scholars October 2013
NBA player C.J Watson traveled to Senegal in August 2012 to fulfill a life-long dream to visit Africa. More than a year later his impact is still being felt.
Through the U.S. State Department’s “Sports Envoy” program and the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” initiative, C.J. had the opportunity to visit Senegal and South Africa over a two-week trip. It was in Senegal that he had the chance to work with SEED Project – an international NGO dedicated to using education and basketball to inspire the next generation of African leaders. Over a 4-day span with the support of the SEED coaching staff and students, C.J. traveled throughout Senegal’s capital city of Dakar delivering basketball clinics and speaking to the importance of staying in school and pursuing a college diploma to more than 200 boys and girls, ages 11-19. But it was C.J.’s visit to Thies, an hour outside of Dakar to see the SEED Project’s campus, where his visit is still impacting students over a year later.
For the past 12 years, SEED Project has been developing young men through their SEED Academy program by teaching high school age students the game of basketball as a means to motivate and inspire them in the classroom. SEED provides up to 30 students a year with tuition to attend school, basketball training, academic tutoring, English language classes, and dynamic leadership programming. Over 75% of students that have gone through the program have matriculated to college throughout the world (this is quite impressive when you consider that only 5% of the college age population in Senegal is enrolled in college). And, during C.J.’s visit, SEED unveiled its plans to launch a new program – Jr. SEED – for middle school boys and girls. C.J. quickly agreed to be a founding member of the program and provided a scholarship fund for 5 students – the C.J. Watson Scholars – to attend the program in its inaugural year.
With the support of C.J., SEED successfully launched Jr. SEED (January – June 2013) and the pilot year was a huge success. Jr. SEED set out to achieve 4 primary goals:
1) Introduce the game of basketball to middle school students
2) Engage students in academic opportunities
3) Promote gender quality through basketball
4) Work with each student to ensure they will stay in school and be promoted to the next grade. Jr. SEED served 48 boys and girls (grades 6-9) and achieved the following results:
As a result of Jr. SEED’s successful pilot year, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and U.S. State Department, have followed CJ.’s lead and pledged their support for the program in Year 2. Jr. SEED anticipates adding 50 new students this upcoming year and hopes to expand this program to other schools throughout Senegal by the Fall of 2014. Ultimately, SEED hopes to transport the Jr. SEED model beyond Senegal and across Africa. Perhaps C.J.’s generous support of Jr. SEED can be best understood through the words of Eliane Kane, an 8th grade Jr. SEED student and a C.J. Watson Scholar:
The SEED Program has given me a better understanding of myself. The SEED environment motivated me and helped me persevere both in school and basketball. Because of the program I now better understand what I want to accomplish in life and how to accomplish it. Thank you C.J., you sponsorship has allowed me to follow my dreams!”