On the heels of Patriots captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater leading the charge for social justice programming, Dont'a Hightower was introduced to a local organization that closes the opportunity gap for low income children and adolescents of color.
Year Up opened its first non-profit location in Boston in 2000 and provides urban young adults ages 18-24 with a unique combination of hands-on technical and professional skills, college credit, and corporate internships to transform them to high income stars.
"It really excites me because they're doing great things out there and I couldn't do anything more besides get behind it. Closing the opportunity gap that a lot of kids and children of color don't get because of their location, zip code or socioeconomic background. They have a lot of great alumni that are able to plug and push in different directions and give others opportunities that are from different backgrounds," said Hightower.
From growing up in a single parent home with his sister, Hightower understands and relates to the lifestyle that kids in the Year Up program are experiencing. He strives to improve the future of the next generation of children who are growing up in similar circumstances that he endured.
"I know what we went through was really hard and I can imagine just how much harder it is for other kids. I want to be able to give back and use my platform to my best abilities. That's how I was raised and how my mom raised me so I'm trying to do the best that I can," said Hightower.
The Patriots captain, who is a Jordan Brand athlete, took his involvement with Year Up to the next level by nominating them to receive a grant from Jordan.
Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand partner with Jordan family athletes to donate to charities and causes in their hometowns and communities.
As a result of Hightower's pitch to Jordan, Year Up was given a Jordan Family Grant. With the investment, they will continue to support rebuilding and repairing the nation in the wake of COVID-19 and simultaneously catalyze a vision that creates an equitable future for all.
"I'm just stoked about it. What they're doing is awesome. Jordan is huge about giving back to the black communities. What better chance to do that than to help kids who try really hard and have the ambition and skill to do it but because of whatever their skin color or where they grew up they aren't able to get those opportunities," said Hightower.
During Week 13 of the NFL season, Hightower also highlighted Year Up for My Cause My Cleats, a chance for players to pick a cause that is important to them and represent their chosen organization on custom designed cleats.
"The past couple of years I went with the American Diabetes Association and even though I'm still linked up with that, being in the position that I am with Year Up I wanted to be able to show my support just like with getting the grant and do what I can to make sure everyone knows about it," explained Hightower.
In addition to receiving a grant from the Jordan Brand, the Boston non-profit was also named a Patriots Players fund recipient this season.
During the 2018 season, Patriots players started a social justice fund to collectively provide support for organizations in New England focused on social justice and racial equality, including in the areas of education, economic development, police relations and criminal justice. The fund has been renewed and funded in each of the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons by players, coaches and staff and matched – up to $250,000 – by ownership. The fund has raised just under $2 million since inception.
"The more support and recognition for an organization like this it's only going to make it bigger than what it is. Hopefully it continues to grow and flourish in that way and be a trailblazer and hopefully spark off other organizations like it," said Hightower.
For more information on Year Up and how they are helping young adults move from minimum wage to meaningful careers, visit https://www.yearup.org/about.