Less than a week after announcing a yearly fund to advocate for social justice programs, the Dolphins have announced their first concrete project.
The Dolphins announced Friday the creation of the Project Change Scholarship, a program that will identify one high school student each year and pay for their tuition to college over a four-year period. Launching Dec. 1, the goal of the scholarship is to target students to impact their lives so they can make a change in their community.
The idea was a result of a discussion between safety Michael Thomas and Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross. Thomas said he was grateful for Ross' involvement in the yearly fund and trying to create social change.
"He's definitely been involved with us from the jump, always asking us what he can do? What can the Dolphins do to get ahead of this conversation to not make it where it's about the protest anymore but trying to have real change in the community," Thomas said. ""I can't even explain how important it's been to have someone of that status to be behind us, to support us and to be willing to do what it takes to actually make that change." Thomas will be part of a selection committee involving Miami Dolphins staff and players that will choose the scholarship recipient. He said he was excited for the opportunity.
"Everybody is trying to say, OK, what's going to come out of you players who are protesting?" Thomas said. "What are you all trying to do in the community? Obviously it's trying to make improvements in our communities, trying to see real change. That's something huge to me." Applicants for the Project Change Scholarship will have to meet the following requirements:
• Maintain a GPA of 3.0.
• Complete at least 40 hours a community service a semester in social justice programs.
• Write an essay on what change they want to see in the community and how the scholarship will achieve that change.
• Be accepted into a community college or university.
"The youth is the future," Thomas said. "That's why we're doing it. We want to see a better future for the youth. Obviously, I talk about my daughter. If you're doing this to see change for your community, America, that's when you're going to see something positive come about that. People can get behind that. It's not just an NFL thing, it's an American thing and people can get behind that." In addition to the Project Change Scholarship, the team created a social justice grant program, sponsored the Police Athletic League of North Miami and will host a police and youth conference in conjunction with the 5000 Role Models Excellence Project.
These initiatives are in addition to the previous work through the team's collaboration with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). Founded and created by Ross in October 2015, RISE harnesses the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Since its founding, RISE programs have reached more than 30,000 students, coaches and athletic staff at the high school, collegiate and professional level. To learn more about RISE, visit risetowin.org.