The Undefeated: Jordan Brand Is Giving Kids Full Rides To College—No Basketball Experience Needed
Wings scholarship applicants are nominated by Wings’ strategic partners, including UNCF.
Rozzie Cribbs never thought he’d make it to the promised land. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, the idea of being a full-time student on the campus of a four-year university was a seemingly unattainable goal. He hadn’t seen many kids like him ever reach it—and not for a lack of trying. For some, life circumstances simply dictated the mindset. “I wasn’t really thinking about college,” said Cribbs.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the year Cribbs graduated, 69.7 percent of high school students (ages 16-24) went on to junior and four-year colleges. But within the African-American community, that number shrinks to 58.2 percent. “My family wasn’t real big on it,” said Cribbs, 20. “They felt like you’re just putting money to debt, with a low probability of getting work.”
In high school, Cribbs dreamed of working in graphic design, and he says he owes some of his artistic creativity to his older brother, who for a while pursued a career in animation. “It didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to, and he kind of gave up on it,” Cribbs said. “So from that point on, I just said OK, I’m only gonna treat it like a hobby.”
But in 2014 during his junior year, his high school, Little Black Pearl Art & Design Academy, welcomed Larry Miller, president of the multibillion-dollar Jordan Brand, as a keynote speaker. The academy is a charter school in service to students labeled “at risk.” Miller had considered rescheduling his visit, which fell on a day in which the surrounding community was mourning the loss of one of the school’s students—to gun violence.
But Monica Haslip, Little Black Pearl’s executive director, persuaded him to stay and inspire her pupils with his story. Haslip and Miller eventually teamed up under the umbrella of Jordan’s revamped community outreach initiative, “Wings.” Soon there was the creation of the Jordan Design Studio at the brand’s flagship store on South State Street, where Cribbs and his peers spent Saturdays learning the X’s and O’s of design, marketing and merchandising. Cribbs showed off his skills as a gifted freehand artist with a design that was schemed into a T-shirt and placed on sale at the store. In just two days, it sold out.
...In the past few years, Wings has sent hundreds of students to approximately 65 different colleges and universities around the country. The program has also gone global, expanding to China and extending scholarships even to high schools. In the United States, Wings joined forces with 23 community partners in five different cities: Portland, Oregon; Philadelphia; Los Angeles; New York; and Chicago." >> Read More
Learn more: UNCF Wings Scholars Progam
Aaron Dodson is an associate editor at The Undefeated.