When the New Orleans Saints allowed safety Malcolm Jenkins to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, the Super Bowl champion and onetime Pro Bowler vowed his departure would not mean the end of his involvement with the city where he started his professional football career.
On Thursday night, he showed that promise remained alive, as the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation awarded 13 scholarships to area students headed for college and the former Saints player spoke to teens and their families at College Track New Orleans’ fifth annual Launch to College ceremony.
College Track New Orleans is a nonprofit that helps students from underserved communities graduate from college.
Jenkins, one of its advisory board members, uses his foundation’s Project Rewards program to provide some of those students with a four-year, life-skills curriculum and scholarships to help them with on-campus fees and expenses.
College Track is in its fifth year, and joining its 44 college-bound students gathered at Dillard University were the program’s first four participants to graduate from college this spring: Troy Simon, from Bard College; Irene Beauvais, from Howard University; Briana Brown, from Southeastern Louisiana University; and Jessica Irons, from Goucher College.
Simon will attend Yale University this fall for graduate school.
“I’m so proud of all of them for their perseverance and commitment, and I’m excited to be participating in their celebration,” Jenkins said in an email after the event. “It’s particularly special to see Troy graduate from Bard College and headed to Yale. He’s an example of what’s possible. Troy and the other students tonight are the reason we will keep this going in New Orleans.”
The scholarships, which are awarded to college-bound students who have completed the Project Rewards life-skills curriculum, went to 13 area students in categories including academic excellence, overcoming adversity and most improved.
In all, Jenkins’ foundation has awarded $85,000 in scholarships to 56 graduating high school seniors, 34 of whom were the first in their families to go to college.
Jenkins spent five seasons with the Saints, beginning with their 2009 Super Bowl season, before joining the Eagles in 2014. He met his wife in New Orleans, and his daughter was born here.
Jenkins, an Ohio State graduate, said the killing of his friend and former teammate Will Smith, also an Ohio State alumnus, last month only underscores the importance of positive intervention in the lives of young people.
“We engage with students about difficult circumstances they may encounter, like gangs or violence, and the consequences that will come from their actions,” he said. “For these youth to see there is a path to success, they will make better choices if given the support and guidance from adults who care.”
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.