Who Dat Dish was fortunate enough to be able to land our second Q & A with the current starting safety for the Philadelphia Eagles. Malcolm Jenkins played for the Saints from 2009-13′ and was a member of the Saints Super Bowl team of 2009-10.
Robert Gagnier– Just how satisfying is it to know that your Foundation just went over the $100K mark?
Malcolm Jenkins– It feels great! We’ve been able to provide more than $100,000 in scholarships due to the overwhelming response we have received from donors and sponsors who believed in our mission to support 72 students in their pursuit of a higher education.
In 2012, we started this program with the desire to reward high school seniors in underserved communities. We’ve been able to acknowledge them in unique ways such as Most Improved or Overcoming Adversity. Our goal is to give $150,000 in scholarships by 2020.
RG– So many people in the public eye seem to “talk the talk” in terms of giving and following up, either through their own foundation or through others. You have “walked the walk”. What is it that drove you to not only form a foundation, but to see it flourish in the manner that it has?
MJ– I was fortunate to realize my dream of becoming a professional athlete, thanks to the support of my parents, coaches, teachers, mentors, church and community.
Through them, the importance of hard work and giving back was instilled in me at a young age. From New Jersey to Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, each community in which I have lived and worked has played a vital role in lifting me up to where I am today.
However, without this support, many youth might never have a chance to enhance their lives or realize their dreams. Through the foundation programs, we’ve created innovative opportunities and experiences to educate and inspire youth, and it’s really fulfilling to see firsthand the impact that the Foundation has had.
One of the students who received a scholarship from us is now graduating college and headed to law school. We find that many of these kids simply need a guiding hand and mentor to believe they can create their own future.
RG– Does your foundation continue to play a role in the greater New Orleans area?
MJ– Yes, our Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. program is administered in collaboration with College Track New Orleans, a long standing partner of the Foundation to students attending more than 15 high schools across New Orleans.
Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. stands for Reinforcing Education With Activities, Recreation and Developmental Supports and augments the College Track academic support with a four-year life skills curriculum that includes interactive activities designed to provide youth with learning resources, essential skills and non-cognitive attributes, such as resiliency and tenacity.
More than 200 students participate in the program each year. They have the opportunity to receive various rewards throughout the year, as well as the opportunity to earn college scholarships.
The goal is to inspire them to seek an education and the life they desire. To date, of the 72 graduating high school seniors who have received scholarships from our Foundation, 48% are first generation college students. We know this program works.
RG– You have reached out to both Congress and members of law enforcement to form a bridge between them and communities of color. How is that progressing?
MJ– We’ve been to Capitol Hill twice in six months to meet with legislators about criminal justice reform and are now meeting with local representatives to seek improvement in our system. The good news is, reform is a bipartisan issue, and we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback.
Our goal is to make it a priority, in order to see the change we desire, which is to lower the recidivism rates in prisons and instill more trust with the police and the community. It takes both sides to make the commitment.
RG– What are your thoughts about how the Eagles and your former team the Saints have faired in the recent draft?
MJ– I think the Eagles have done a great job during the offseason as a whole with new additions to strengthen our core unit. The Saints appear to have done a good job as well. Bring on the season!