Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award
The Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award celebrates the legendary sports icon's commitment to leadership and service, and honor high school and college-aged students who, like Billie Jean King, use sports to improve their communities. Honorees will either receive a college scholarship or direct a grant to an eligible nonprofit aligned with their work.
2019 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award Honorees
Harrison Barnes, rising freshman, Belmont Abbey College
Harrison understands what it means to feel different. When he was just a toddler, he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Dysfunction and Asperger's Syndrome. Athletic by nature, Harrison struggled to find an outlet for his boundless energy, but team sports did not work for him. When he was 12, he discovered BMX and off road bike racing, and everything clicked into place. By finding his focus and using his bike as a coping mechanism, Harrison realized that biking could help other kids with challenges, some visible, some not. He founded GearUp in 2015, which helps kids, especially those with special needs, to learn to ride safely, access to safe riding spaces, work with mentors, and free bikes. Since its been operational, Harrison and Gear Up have facilitated more than 9,000 hours of mentored riding for kids with special needs. To date, more than 4,500 children have been directly impacted by GearUp programming.
Matthew Diaz, rising freshman, Lafayette College and Lisa Parks, rising senior, Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters
Parks was a standout on the track team at her high school in Atlanta, but after moving to New York City, she doesn't compete anymore. It's not that she doesn't want to, it's that her high school, Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, doesn't offer the sport. Nor does it offer boys volleyball, the game that Diaz grew up playing during summers spent in Puerto Rico. Parks and Diaz say that too many students like them don't get the chance to play sports in New York City schools. That's why they are leaders in the Fair Play coalition, designed to create equitable access to school sports in NYC. They've also been part of a class action lawsuit accusing the education department and the Public School Athletic League of discrimination by denying African-American and Hispanic students an equal opportunity to play on school teams. Their efforts have paid off - on May 29, 2019, the NY City Council unanimously passed the Intro 242-B bill, designed to address inequities in high school sports for Black and Latino students.
Yasmine Sanchez, rising sophomore, Queensborough College
Sanchez strives to create positive pathways to engage youth, helping them grow physically and mentally into their early adulthood. She is leading the design, implementation and management of a free, 5-week summer program, Soccer Bloc, through New York City Football Club's Youth Leadership Council. Soccer Bloc uses soccer to connect over 500 young people from different communities across the five boroughs. The program employees 50 teenagers, and each week they implement a curricula focused on different social topics including, diversity and inclusion, healthy lifestyles, safety awareness, self-identity and leadership - all through the lens of soccer. Additionally, through a partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Sanchez is working to expand Saturday Night Lights, a violence prevention and youth development program, to the same zones as Soccer Bloc.