Kevin Durant knows about starting at the bottom rung. But he is blessed with a gift to play basketball, which is not just a paycheck, but a ticket to worlds with other possibilities. He has used that access to create business opportunities beyond the world of sports, such as in technology.
“What I love about tech is, I love watching the world advance,” said the 29-year-old star of the Golden State Warriors, who invests through his Durant Company. “I love the connections of people on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. I would look at it like [Cornelius] Vanderbilt, who built the railroad. He connected us. The next advancement connecting us to each other is social media. I want to be part of that.” His interest in technology connected him to Laurene Powell Jobs and has led to a new philanthropic venture.
Durant has committed $10 million and partnered with the Prince George’s public schools on a program called College Track, which was created more than 20 years ago in California by Powell Jobs and others. College Track helps disadvantaged kids — like Durant once was — attend college and get launched into life.
Durant is dropping a life-ladder called the Durant Center smack in the middle of the Seat Pleasant, Md., area where he grew up. It isn’t an elevator. The 60 students in the initial group must climb the ladder themselves.
But it’s a path.
“I want them to see the world,” Durant said in a phone interview this month. “I want them to see where people are from and see that there are things outside their world. I don’t know exactly or at what pace that they will get it, but there is a world outside that they need to see.”
Durant’s $10 million will seed construction and operating expenses of a local chapter of College Track, which is scheduled to open this year.
“This hits home, because it’s right in the neighborhood where me and my buddies lived,” said the 6-foot-11 “small” forward.
College Track is a 10-year program that provides the basic infrastructure — tutoring, test preparation, picking a college that is a “fit” and how to get financial aid — that kids from less-advantaged families often don’t have.
“These are all the things that middle-class families deliver if your parents went to college,” said Elissa Salas, College Track’s chief executive. “If your parents didn’t go to college, we fill that gap.”
In a partnership between Unload Your 401k and anti-gun violence campaign, No Guns Allowed, entertainment icon Snoop Dogg and tech leader Ron Conway are joining forces to call for divestment from the gun industry. Through the surprising union, they are using #ImUnloading in a new Public Service Announcement to turn their pledge into reality, joined by athletes Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks and Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers; actress/singer Margot Bingham; singer/songwriter/producer Aloe Blacc; singer/songwriter Jhené Aiko; and League Of Young Voters’ Executive Director, Dr. Rob Biko Baker.
Gun Violence is an epidemic, with 20 children every day admitted to hospitals with gunshot wounds. In an effort to create change, Conway is calling on the C-Suite of tech companies to offer socially-responsible, “no guns allowed” investment options, and Snoop Dogg is enlisting the support of the entertainment industry and his fans to declare #ImUnloading in the name of those touched by the tragedy of gun violence.
“I’m unloading for my loved ones that I’ve lost,” Snoop Dogg said. “I’m going all in for gun-free investing.”
The PSA, from Campaign to Unload and States United to Prevent Gun Violence, is the second installment of support for Unload Your 401k, a program designed to raise awareness of divestment as a unique and powerful strategy to help make a meaningful change in preventing gun violence.
“There is a straight line from gun industry investment, to gun industry profits, to funding of the NRA. Half the value of these companies comes from mutual funds and most of the ‘investors’ in these funds have no idea they are inadvertently part of the problem. Now they can be part of the solution,” said Jennifer Fiore, executive director of Campaign to Unload.
“Greedy gun corporations are benefitting from the pain in our community,” said Baker. “It’s important that we vote with our money.”
UnloadYour401k.com offers visitors an easy way to look-up their 401k retirement plan to see if it is supporting the gun industry and its lobbying group, the National Rifle Association. Employees now have the tools available to get their money out of gun investments.
“It is long past time for government to act to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in America, but it is also long past time when we can believe that they will,” said Julia Wyman, executive director of States United. “Americans want change and thanks to our partners in this effort, more Americans will be aware of their economic power to take power into their own hands.”