Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been one of the most consistent players in the NFL over the past five seasons. Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson was an all-around great athlete. He excelled in both football and baseball. The Baltimore Orioles drafted him to play baseball straight out of high school, but Wilson’s father encouraged him to go and get an education. So, Wilson declined the Orioles offer and enrolled at North Carolina State to play football. At 5 feet 11 inches, he had many detractors doubting his ability to play at the professional or even collegiate level in a major conference.
After three years at North Carolina State, Wilson transferred to Wisconsin after the coaching staff told him he wouldn’t be favored to start his senior season. He starred for the Badgers and set school records for most passing touchdowns and passing yards in a season. He entered the 2012 NFL Draft, where he was picked in the third round.
Wilson’s father, who passed away in 2010 from complications with diabetes, always asked his son, “Why not you?” He found it fitting to focus his charitable efforts on that question. He launched the Why Not You Foundation in 2014, the year he won his first Super Bowl and became the second black quarterback to do so. He also became the shortest quarterback to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Through his foundation, Wilson hopes to empower and inspire America’s youth to overcome and embrace obstacles as he did. Through donations and fundraisers, he equips local organizations with the funding to help make a difference. His wife, singer and dancer Ciara, joined his efforts and brought her passion for helping young women see that they have an equal opportunity and access to education and empowerment skills. Her involvement ensures the Foundation encompasses all youth.
Earlier this month, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, King County Library System, and KCLS Foundation, Why Not You launched a teen empowerment titled “DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible.” Its goal is to encourage students to take advantage of the programs offered in their community libraries. All students in the King County, Washington area have the opportunity to receive free all-access library cards. The program includes STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) education, homework assistance, mentoring, coding lessons, ESL (English as a Second Language) support, SAT prep and more. In addition, a total of $100,000 will be given to eight Why Not You scholars to support their college education.
A lot of these kids just need to be exposed to the programs and given motivation. While “why not you” involves self-reflection that each individual must answer, Ciara and Russell Wilson are doing their part to point the youth in the right direction and utilize them with the tools to succeed.
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