We sat down with BAGS Executive Director, Nakia Reddick, to find out what led him to the non-profit world and what inspires him to keep going.
Q: What was your involvement with the BAGS Foundation while you were playing professional football?
A: My uncle served as the National Director of the BAGS Scholarship Foundation of Chicago while I played with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. I would take a couple of my teammates on the 2-hour drive over to Chicago and speak to students in the public schools. It felt good to share my experience and set an example for those kids.
Q: What did your work on The PGA TOUR teach you about managing a philanthropic organization?
A: When I worked with the Tour we traveled to over 45 cities each year and the tour gave so much to each community we visited. Every tournament had over 1,000 volunteers enabling the Tour to raise awareness and money for so many wonderful organizations. It was inspirational being a part of this and reinforced my belief that there’s strength in numbers. When we band together we can be the change we wish to see in the world.
Q: Why did you want to be an Executive Director for BAGS?
A: I’m passionate about sports and competition. Growing up in inner city Miami there were more temptations to go down the wrong path than there were opportunities to make something of myself. I was one of the fortunate ones that had a strong family supporting and pushing me to be my best self.
I opened a division of BAGS in my local community in Connecticut because I wanted to give back. I wanted to take those ideas that helped shape me and make a difference in the lives of young men and women in the urban city. I guess you could say I’m paying it forward.
Q: How has the Waterbury community embraced BAGS?
A: It was tough in the beginning. Many people didn’t believe we could make the difference we were striving for. They looked at me as a dreamer and didn’t take us seriously. Over the past several years, we’ve shown our commitment to the community and the support has improved. I will say most of our support comes from juvenile probation officers in the area, workers of the Department of Children and Family (DCF) and Wellmore Behavior Health. I would like to see more local businesses get involved. The students and parents have really bought in to the BAGS philosophy because they are living the difference we’re making in our community.
Q: How much time each week are you interacting with the kids?
A: This is a 24/7 responsibility. All of our students and parents have my cell number. I am wholly committed to giving these kids the opportunities they deserve. I’m equally committed to holding them accountable when they slip up. I meet with teachers, principals, probation officers, counselors and parents… Some days are tougher than others, but I never give up on my BAGS kids.
Q: What advice do you give students struggling at home and/or in the classroom?
A: Get involved. Find something you love and make a commitment to being the best you can be at it – whether that’s a sport, club or the arts… discover your passion and do it. Doing what makes your heart sing will bring positive change in all areas of your life.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of being the director of the BAGS Scholarship Foundation?
A: Last year I watched three of my BAGS students graduate from high school. These were students previously failing classes and making poor life decisions when they joined our program. Graduation was out of reach for them before BAGS. So, the most rewarding part? I guess I would say giving kids hope for a brighter future and faith to believe in themselves… they already have what it takes inside of them to be their personal best – they just have to choose it.
Q: What’s the toughest part of your job?
A: As a parent myself, working with students who are part of the DCF system that were taken away from their parents is really tough for me.
Q: What sort of support do you receive from Waterbury area business owners?
A: We don’t currently receive a lot of financial support from area businesses, but I’m hoping to focus more energy on getting Waterbury businesses involved in 2014. We host a series of All-Star games in the spring for various sports (basketball, football and soccer). The events continue to grow and I’m working to monetize these events so we can offer more scholarship opportunities to our deserving student-athletes. On the flipside, BAGS has given to over 100 organizations since we opened our doors in July 2010.
Q: If a business owner or executive would like to support the children of the Waterbury area through the BAGS Foundation, what are their options for involvement this school year?
A: Like I said, we have the All-Star games coming up in the spring where monetary sponsorship opportunities are available. We also have afterschool programs, clinics, tutoring and mentoring. The students could use your time if you’d like to volunteer or monetary donations help keep these programs afloat.
Q: What should an individual do to get started as a coach, tutor, mentor or sponsor?
A: Volunteers should email us at email@example.com
. They will go through a vetting process where they submit a personal profile, fill out paperwork, and are run through a background check. The process usually takes a month.