Originally published on The Industry Cosign December 17, 2014
“a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.”
It’s often been stated that athletes have a responsibility for being a positive role models for children because of their status as professional players. Although some don’t agree with this assessment, there are others who take that to heart and will try to be the best role models for children to emulate. When it comes to knowing and accepting his “duty” as a role model, Philadelphia Eagles’ Safety, Malcolm Jenkins, stands up proudly! With his non-profit organization, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, not only does he show and prove, he also follows up.
The Industry Cosign recently spoke with this upstanding young man about his charitable work and his business and how he balances them with his career as an athlete.
As a professional football player and businessman, do you feel that it is your duty to set an example for children?
I have a responsibility to our youth to be a positive role model. I’m fortunate to be in a position to be looked up to by many kids and young adults and even admired by those older than me. I’m fortunate to be an example of making good choices. My perspective about the importance of role models has evolved a bit since my daughter was born in December. I’m now certain that role models have an impact on children even when they may not intend to. So, I am more aware of that potential impact at all times, and try to make sure the example I set is one that I would be proud of others following.
Tell me about your non-profit organization, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.
I established The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation in 2010. It is a 501 (c )(3) non-profit public charity. We are committed to youth development initiatives and programs that emphasize mentoring, character development, leadership, education, life skills, health and recreation. Our mission to achieve positive change in the lives of youth, particularly those in under-served communities, is reflected and achieved in all of our program efforts. The Foundation offers programs in locations around the country – where I grew up (NJ), played college football (Columbus, Ohio – The OSU), and professional football (New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles). Our foundation team is currently assessing opportunities to deploy our existing programs and/or develop new programs for Philadelphia area youth.
What is the purpose, why was it started and what are the long-term goals?
I have had many individuals in my life who were very impactful on my growth both professionally and personally. I have always wanted to have that kind of impact on as many kids as I can, as a way of paying back all who helped me. As my mother and I were discussing the number and purpose of the charitable activities I was participating in, both in Columbus and in New Orleans, we felt that my efforts, while well-intentioned would be much more impactful if they were focused with a specific purpose. We came up with the idea to centralize and crystallize the vision for my philanthropy with a focus on our core mission: Preparing our youth with life skills that cultivates success. So, that is why The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation was established with my mother Gwendolyn V. Jenkins, as its president. Under her stewardship, we have grown in sponsorship and, more importantly, we have been able to reach more and more kids each year. We are excited about where we are headed and we would consider the next three years to be successful if we were able to: • Identify and cultivate new relationships and programs with like-minded organizations • Grow our signature Project REWARDS program. • Increase the number of scholarship recipients, who are named Malcolm Jenkins Scholars, and increase our scholarship fund from $25,000 dollars to $100,000 each year. Overall we look forward to our programs enhancing youth, strengthening families and building communities. Our vision is to be a world-class organization that is positioned as a leader in having positive, lasting impact on youth, families and communities around the world.
What brings a smile to your face when it comes to helping kids in need?
I can’t help but smile when I see youth making positive transitions because they’ve applied the teachings and tools they’ve learned from our programs and our support. It’s like the old adage “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” It brings a smile to my face and makes me proud when I see youth applying lessons learned to their lives such as furthering their education, being a leader in their classrooms and communities and leading by example in their homes. We don’t just give handouts, we open doors by providing resources that help them become productive individuals and citizens. During the finals examination period for our Malcolm Jenkins Scholars who are in their freshman year of college, our foundation sends care packages of healthy snacks, and words of encouragement to each one of the kids to remind them that we are thinking about them during that stressful period. The students send us very touching “from the heart” messages that express their appreciation for what the Foundation means to them. Another example of what brings a smile to my face.
Could you explain some of the programs and/or work that’s done through the organization?
Programs The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation offers are enriching to youth, families and communities. Some of our Signature Programs include: • Project R.E.W.A.R.D.S. (Reinforcing Education With Activities, Recreation and Developmental Supports) program acknowledges that it takes more than academic readiness to meet the challenges of adolescence, adulthood and to succeed in college and in life. Through our partnership with Urban League College Track (ULCT) we offer a variety of unique interactive activities designed to provide underserved youth in grades 9 – 12 with education, essential skills and resources necessary to enhance life performance. The curriculum focuses on building self-confidence; health and wellness; strategic thinking; leadership and mentoring. • The Malcolm Jenkins Project REWARDS Scholarships are awarded annually to help deserving youth, in pursuit of higher learning, with the financial assistance to attend an accredited college or university. • Annual Next Level Youth Football Camp designed for 400 youth 7-17 is free and gives campers a solid foundation on football fundamentals on and off the field. We also provide informational sessions for parents and guardians on hot youth sports safety topics. This year, through our sponsors, we are offering vouchers to campers for free concussion baseline testing. • Each year, our foundation partners with 27 local churches, non-profits and social service organizations, to collectively identify 135 families in need in the Greater New Orleans community to whom we provide complete traditional holiday meals, with the help of our partners at Winn Dixie. • This year we are launching a year-round youth sports safety initiative through our partnership with Safe Kids New Jersey, a program developed and funded by Johnson & Johnson. We are proud to be working with a variety of national, regional and local partners that sponsor our efforts. We encourage individuals, businesses, and corporations and organizations to take a look at us and support The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. www.themalcolmjenkinsfoundation.org
There is a perception that only poor kids or kids from broken homes need help, is there a particular requirement or prerequisite needed in order to receive help and/or direction from your organization?
Our doors are open to every youth. Under our foundation’s goals and mission is to help kids in under-served communities, those who need help are whom we want to help first. Our programs are free to all and there are no prerequisites or restrictions to participate. At the end of the day, whomever gets involved with what we do, that’s whom we help. We never close doors.
I know you’ve done a considerable amount of charity work and mentoring through your foundation, is there something or an event that you are most proud of that leaves a feeling in your heart, knowing it is/was the right thing to do?
While in college I was doing community work with my frat – Omega Psi Phi – I met with about 10 high school boys who were considered leaders (good and not so good) in their respective circle of friends. I talked with them about leadership, responsibility and had a candid conversation about the direction in which their lives were going. I gave all 10 young men my contact information so we could keep in touch. I remember back then having second thoughts about that. Only one of those young men contacted me back then and we’ve been keeping in touch ever since. I met up with him recently. He just graduated college and is moving to Detroit for his first job as a professional. Imagine if I had followed my second thoughts and not shared my contact information. There’s at least one young man out there who wouldn’t have the benefit of a mentor; the opportunity to bond with someone who could be a role model; and someone to help them lead by example in a positive way to their peers. I know deep within my heart that reaching out was not just the right thing to do, it was the very best I could do for that young man and any youth I would encounter.
You’re also an entrepreneur through your Rock Avenue Bow Ties company. Why bow ties? What made you decide to embark down that avenue (pun intended)?
I started wearing bow ties in 2010. It was my way of standing out in a locker room filled with nice shoes, designer luggage and custom-tailored suits. Bow ties set me a part from everyone and once I could afford to be fly, bow ties became my thing. Last April 2013, I was complaining to my wife, Morrisa about not being able to find bow ties that fit my personality and personal style. She suggested I make my own bow ties and the idea snowballed into launching my own bow tie company three months later – Rock Avenue Bow Ties, Ltd. www.rockavenuebowties.com
Did you develop your sense of fashion after you started playing professionally?
When I was preparing for the NFL draft at the end of my senior year at The Ohio State University, for the first time I had a couple custom suits made. I fell in love with the way they fitted. From there, I began to pay more attention to the way I dressed and looked and my sense and flair for fashion evolved from there.
How do you balance playing football, running your organization and maintaining Rock Avenue Bowties?
My personal passion, drive and ambition to do whatever it is I set out to do is the foundation for my balance. Professional football is priority one. It’s what allows me to have a foundation and be a philanthropist, as well as an entrepreneur. My success as a non-profit executive and an entrepreneur comes as a result of being blessed to have talented, smart and creative people around me who understand my vision and my goals and help carry out my dreams and get the job done for my interests on every level. My mom does the heavy lifting with The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation. My wife, Morrisa, is also a key player, along with a small team, who helped to get Rock Avenue Bow Ties off the ground. She continues to be the inspiration of the vision of Rock Avenue Bow Ties.
What’s in the future for Malcolm Jenkins? What other endeavors, if any, will you be doing and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Of course my highest priorities are my wife Morrisa, our baby daughter, and our families. My prayers are for a continuing and successful career in the NFL, a successful Foundation that continues to positively impact youth, families and communities and a successful line of men’s accessories. I know what it means to invest in others and how that investment can be life changing. I want to be the person who motivates youth; shows them the ropes; assist them in navigating barriers and obstacles; and introduce them to individuals and organizations that can help them grow and achieve their dreams. My family heavily invested in me with support, love, a meal, and sometimes just a place to visit. My family is a very talented group of individuals in business and organization planning, music, art, photography, graphic design, event planning, and jewelry making. I want to help them build and thrive as they have helped me to so we can all share and experience the same sense of accomplishment and success.