Pro-basketball player, Batouly Camara knows firsthand the power of sport on a developing young woman. Helping teenage girls gain access to resources they may not otherwise have, Camara founded an organization which hosts basketball camps in NYC and Guinea to develop girls into strong & powerful leaders
BATOULY CAMARA: Education and athletics is really important. Go.
To give girls confidence. It gives them an opportunity to be empowered, to have jobs, and to live their life. And to be great members of society, which I think we all want and what they want to be.
My name is Batouly Camara. I'm currently 24 years old I am the head girls basketball coach and college counselor at Blair Academy. And I'm also the founder and CEO of Women and Kids Empowerment. Women and Kids Empowerment, W.A.K.E is a non-profit that started in 2017 after my first trip to Guinea, West Africa. We work to educate equip and empower young girls through sport education and social entrepreneurship skills.
I started W.A.K.E because of one girl. I remember her coming up to me and saying, "I can go to UConn and I'm better than you." And I said, yeah, you are. I remember so naively stating, OK go shoot hoops. "I don't have a basketball, there is no adequate courts." OK, that's fine. Go run. "I can't, I'm a young girl." Go do this, go do that. And the list went on. Then I felt like it was so irresponsible of me to instill hope in young girls and not give them the resources, the opportunities, or the access to fight for their dreams. Go.
Go high. Boy, here we go. I felt a personal responsibility at that point to do something. And I'm so thankful that week was the result of that. We've started a basketball camps. We seek place in New York City and in Guinea, West Africa. We have speaker series. We have workshops. Education, and athletics are at the forefront of really providing a strong foundation and base for our kids to be successful. Imagine a nine-year-old girl saying that to you, I'm better than you but I just want to fight for my dreams.
And now today years later, she is going to school full-time. And she is an elite basketball player in Guinea and is so well respected. I wanted to start Women and Kids Empowerment after my experiences with basketball. At a young age, I loved the game for sisterhood, for support, and for the fun that it brought me. As a first generation, my mom only believed that the route to success was through education. And so when I began to take it serious and I was now going to competitive tournaments, that was when the push-back kind of, came.
Well, there were three things that were really ingrained in me at a young age. And that was I was there to-- to finish school, I was there to be a wife, and I was there to be a mom. And all things are super important but that was where my valued lie as a young girl, especially culturally where-- where we came from Guinea, West Africa.
My older brother was my biggest advocate. My brother said, "Mom, she has an opportunity to go to an elite boarding school. And I hope that your fear of the unknown wouldn't stop her from missing out on this opportunity." And it was that conversation that really motivated her until I made to go to Blair Academy at the age of 14 years old.
QUINTEN CLARKE: My name is Quinten Clarke. I'm a faculty member teacher here at Blair Academy. And I was fortunate enough to coach Batouly. But it was so much more than her being a basketball player, it was her personality. The way she talked to her teammates, the way she looked at her coaches, she's so inclusive. And so caring about everybody that she just immediately became an incredibly important player more important person throughout the whole campus. Just her connecting with people, it's just such a gift that she has.
BATOULY CAMARA: Once I got to Blair, a ton of college it came down to recruit, I decided to go to the University of Kentucky. And then from there, I transferred after my freshman year to the University of Connecticut. Playing at UConn was an absolute dream come true, just the legacy that was there. After school, I decided to play basketball professionally. And I played in Spain for eight months. I was the first player in Spain to wear hijab and to cover. And that was tough within itself. Having different looks or different questions, so it's not always easy to deal with.
But I would say, it was such a special opportunity as a Muslim woman playing sport to have young girls say, you gave me the confidence to be myself, to feel seen, and to feel worthy, and to feel heard. I'm extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of young people's lives through W.A.K.E and being at Blair Academy as a college counselor and girls basketball coach.
Together on 3. 1, 2, 3.
BATOULY CAMARA: And I believe that the role that I serve is to be able to create these experiences in these spaces where they empower themselves and they gain the tools necessary to be their greater selves through education and through sport. I'm really looking forward to having an amazing season this year with Blair. That looks so much better. Good.
And with W.A.K.E, we are looking forward to building our second basketball court. I'm so proud of my generation. I think it's filled with fearless change-makers, who see something that's not right and feel, like, they have everything they need to make a difference. I'm so proud of the work that we are doing as [INAUDIBLE].