Athletes across the spectrum have been heavily involved in their communities for some time — from Lebron James founding I Promise School to Serena Williams investing in the next generation of tennis players. There is no shortage of Black athletes dedicated to ensuring that youth are equipped with the tools to be successful, and New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis is not one to be left out of the conversation.

In a culture where parts of society suggest athletes “shut up and play,” sports players like Davis ignore that jargon and invest valuable time and resources into the communities that matter to them.

Through a partnership with New Orleans, Louisiana’s Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), Davis led a three-day workshop as a part of a summer program.

Courtesy of the Youth Empowerment Project

The Summer Program

Davis was initially introduced to YEP through the Nieux Society. Early conversations were centered around Davis’ plans to open a school in New Orleans but later developed into how children in NOLA could have greater exposure to Web3. With this idea in mind, Davis began ideating with Farrah Ross of Nieux Society and built a curriculum they would later submit to Melissa Sawyer, CEO of YEP.

“We kind of designed a curriculum of what that could look like. We got on the horn with Melissa and knew that she was already serving a group of youth and wanted to kind of work with a group of youth that we could pilot that around,” Davis explained.

From the onset, Melissa and the YEP team were on board. Hosted  July 18-20, 2022 — and led by Davis, members of YEP, the Nieux Society, and United Way of Southeast Louisiana — the three-day summer workshop taught 45 New Orleans young people, ages 13-16, the fundamentals of Web3, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and cryptocurrency. The campers designed and minted their own NFTs, culminating in a gallery showcase and collection drop for founding Nieux Society members.

Courtesy of the Youth Empowerment Project

Why Web3?

The world is evolving, and with the popularity and increased usage of Web3 technology, it was essential to have technology as the focus of the summer program. However, for specific communities, Web3 technology can seem foreign. Therefore, programs like these step in and help close the digital divide.

“I think that all the young folks really take to the internet and sort of just digital information naturally. But that — Web3, NFTs, cryptocurrency — is not like a topic of conversation in their communities,“ YEP’s Chief Program Officer, Darrin McCall, said. “And so how do we just like, you know, leverage that natural interest and aptitude for the internet and just be familiar with technology?”

McCall added: “Just open their world so much more about what the possibilities could be and expose them to that information, hopefully early on in their adolescence so that they can, you know, use that later on in life.”

Demario Davis agrees that intentional work must be done to help close the digital divide, and wants education to be a part of the solution that breaks and helps eliminate the margin.

“Web3 is so much more than just a monetary space and an opportunity to make money or to have a revenue stream. It’s so much more than that. And so, certainly, we want them to have an opportunity to have access to wealth and generational wealth,” Davis pointed out.

A Strong Hope For The Future

Demario Davis and his passion for seeing young people succeed heavily align with the mission of YEP. Davis believes that camps like the one YEP offers are critical to building a community where young people can find like-minded individuals that can collaborate to explore new content and spur innovative thoughts.

In fact, if Davis could rewind time, he would have taken advantage of similar opportunities as a teen.

“I would have signed up for all the programming classes, all the development classes, all the graphic design classes that I could have because it’s really the age of the creators.”

“And so the more that you can do as far as coding, as far as graphic developing and those things, the more ahead of the curve you’re gonna be,” Davis continued.

While Davis can’t turn back the hands of time, it is not lost upon groups like YEP the type of influence athletes like him can have on impressionable young people.

Courtesy Of The Youth Empowerment Project

“But then to have him really speak like in a very informed way, very intelligent way about all of this new technology and to kind of like break down some of those like stereotypes that, you know, some of the kids like, ‘Oh, this is a cool football player. I might wanna be interested in this cause somebody like Damario Davis has co-signed this,’” McCall continued.

Leveraging his influence, Davis is doing a soft launch of his school, Devoted Dreamers Academy, with an after-school program for grades 8-12.

The official launch will take place in 2023.