Okafor Lends His Support To Youth Enrichment Program

April 4, 2011

Dedicated to improving the lives of children in his NBA hometown, New Orleans Hornets center/power forward Emeka Okafor is lending his financial and personal support to ELEVATE, a youth development program at Desire Street Ministries in the Ninth Ward. ELEVATE serves middle and high school students by teaching life and social skills through basketball training.

As we search for resources to serve many of the needs in our community, we are grateful to Emeka for his commitment to contribute to the success of so many young people through our ELEVATE program, said Marcia Peterson, executive director of CDC 58:12, INC.

Okafor's donation helps to fund staff salaries and provide after school meals for ELEVATE's participants, many of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. The program relies upon volunteers and other funding sources to cover operating costs. In addition to his financial commitment, Okafor, a First-Team Academic All-American while at the University of Connecticut, spent his personal time visiting with ELEVATE's participants, imparting advice about a balanced commitment to athletics and academics.

ELEVATE students hail from local schools and attend the program every weekday evening for tutoring in academics and ACT/SAT prep, while learning written and verbal communication skills. Academics have always been very important to me, and Im glad that I can add an assist to the local youth of New Orleans as they pursue their goals of higher education, said Okafor.

ELEVATE was formerly known as PeacePlayers International-New Orleans, but when PeacePlayers International pulled out of New Orleans, the program became sustainable under its new name of ELEVATE. To date, 18 alumni of the ELEVATE program have attended college on athletic scholarships. Many of these scholars are the first in their families to attend college.

Desire Street Ministries has transitioned to local management under its new non-profit, CDC 58:12, INC., whose mission is to create opportunities in education, recreation, health and economic development in the Upper Ninth ward of New Orleans. The non-profit partners with the La. Dept. of Education as a 21st Century Community Learning Center, Volunteers of America Mentoring Children of Promise and will be a site for the NORD summer camp. Its Kids First Pediatric Clinic, located at 3512 Louisa Street, is a partnership with Children's Hospital and LSU Health Science Center.

For more information on how you can support ELEVATE, contact Sky Hyacinthe at (203) 564-0564 and for other programs at Desire Street Ministries, contact Marcia Peterson at (504) 304-9356.

One of the most highly regarded power forward/centers in the game today, Emeka Okafors reputation, on and off the court, speaks for itself. Widely touted as a defensive specialist, he is a key component of the New Orleans Hornets roster. Known for his impressive shot-blocking abilities, the 610 Houston native continues to record double-doubles, which he has been doing since his rookie season, when he had more consecutive double-doubles than any player since 1969 and was awarded Rookie of the Year. Graduating from the University of Connecticut with a 3.8 GPA and a degree in finance, Okafor led his Huskies team to a 2004 National Championship and earned honors including the NCAAs Most Outstanding Player and Big East Player of the Year. In 2007, he was inducted into the Husky Ring of Honor. Selected second overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, Okafor was the first-ever draft pick of the expansion Charlotte Bobcats, where he played five seasons. A descendant of Nigeria, the well-spoken and respected leader also helped start the One Million African Lives Initiative," designed to save 1,000,000 lives by stemming the rise of HIV and cleaning up the blood supply in Africa.

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