I was raised in Seattle and the gym was my second home. My father coached local high school basketball so I grew up knowing most of the basketball community before I was old enough to be on a team. Growing up in a household of 14 family members, I never felt like I had less than anyone else because my family worked hard to give me every opportunity possible. It wasn’t until I got older that I began to TRULY appreciate the sacrifices that my family made for my siblings and me.
My parents are both extremely important to me. My father received the prestigious Jefferson award noting his remarkable history of community service supporting student-athletes in the Seattle area. My mother has been a youth leader in our church and has worked in early childhood development for over 25 years. Both were both my biggest influence and instilled in me the importance of steering the youth in our community.
Basketball was always my first love and although I aimed for the NBA, my parents also instilled in me the importance of my education. My dad would say, “School will carry you much further than basketball,” and he was right. I played throughout college and graduated with a degree in Political Science with a minor in Spanish.
In 2008, I returned to Seattle from Portland, Oregon. In the gyms, playgrounds, and barber shops, we still debated who the city’s best athlete was, but I was puzzled why more people were not discussing the closing of public schools and academic budget cuts. I watched as my peer’s demonstrated amazing athletic potential but fell short of going to the next level. Not because they lacked ability, but because they lacked academic and social support. I feared the same was going to happen to the next generation of young athletes and I wanted to make some changes.
I began to envision a program that would provide young people a strong academic foundation while also developing personal athletic skills. In late 2009, I founded the A PLUS Youth Program. A PLUS strives to make sure we are properly servicing our youth in a way that will allow them to maximize their abilities both on and off of the court. A PLUS will align with the A.T.R. Project to promote the positive messages and authentic reality of perseverance, resiliency, leadership and success of the youth in our community.