STATEN ISLAND, New York — Regarded by fans and analysts alike as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Michael Jordan has left a long-lasting impact on many people’s lives. Even after he retired from the sport, his signature Jordan Brand has grown to become recognized as one of the most noteworthy athletic apparel brands in the United States and across the world. While Jordan may be seen as one of the best players to step onto the court, his legacy extends beyond his achievements as an NBA superstar. Today, the Jordan Brand is working to pull impoverished students out of poverty by giving them access to higher education.
The Jordan Brand Wings Program
Jordan Brand Wings is a community-based program with a goal to provide opportunities for disadvantaged students in different parts of the world. The program, which Jordan founded in 2015, is best known for offering full-ride scholarships, working “with more than 30 partners” to identify impoverished but hardworking, mostly “first-generation students.” Recognizing that education provides a pathway out of poverty, the Wings program gives these young people a chance to thrive and learn in an academic environment, eliminating financial barriers to access.
While the Wings program’s primary focus is to help students secure a higher education, it also works to create access to other opportunities so that young people can develop their skills and talents. For example, Wings has a Design Program intended for students who are creative or passionate. This program enables students to gain exposure to the field through “sessions with designers and product creation teams.” Wings also has internship programs to help students gain the experience and the skills they need to succeed. This will allow impoverished students to develop their professional backgrounds and create strong connections. Though the Jordan Brand Wings program primarily operates in the United States, it is now expanding to aid other impoverished communities in countries such as China.
Wings Program in China
The Wings Program has had a presence in China ever since its foundation in 2015 when the Jordan Brand announced its partnership with Hong Kong-based organization Youth Outreach. Together, they created a community-based action program that would provide “mentorship for at-risk youth.” The Jordan Brand Wings program now receives support from the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and has grown to influence students from other large cities, like Beijing and Shanghai.
Progress in China
Ever since the Jordan Brand’s introduction of mentor support in April 2016, more than 450 “employees from Nike Greater China have signed up” to provide students with academic assistance and guidance on “mental health, physical education and social activities.” Many recipients of these services are high school students from China’s western regions, which are less developed areas with fewer resources to help students succeed. Jordan’s program to assist the underprivileged youth in China is aiding more than 2,000 students across 19 different provinces and municipalities.
The Jordan Brand is now looking to upgrade its current mentoring system in China by extending its outreach to help support graduates. The company launched this plan in September 2021, announcing a three-year phase to assist more than 1,000 students in the program who recently graduated secondary school. Jordan, along with its parent organization Nike, is currently working to provide internships for students and is opening up part-time job positions at retail stores in China’s biggest cities. Implementing this system will also allow graduates to keep in touch with their mentors and peers, enabling them to build a strong network of connections.
Beyond North America and China
The Jordan Brand is undertaking significant efforts to help disadvantaged students in China by guiding them through their most crucial developmental phases of life. Some students want to continue their education after finishing high school, while others want to start working immediately. In both situations, the Wings program works with students to provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. With that in mind, the Jordan Brand Wings program has the potential to extend its impact to many more disadvantaged communities across the world. For this reason, the Wings program is slowly making its way over to cities like Paris, France, a site of energy and creativity. In the end, Michael Jordan’s legacy shows the world that even an ordinary individual, regardless of one’s background, can reach their full potential with the necessary support, resources and opportunities to succeed.
– Eshaan Gandhi