Olumide Ayodeji, the national basketball team captain, and Chineye Ogwumike of Connecticut Sun, were the star attraction at the ‘Power Forward’ basketball and life-skill project put together by Exxon Mobil.
Exxon Mobil media and communications Manager, Oge Udeagha, said that the essence of bringing top players for the ‘Power Forward’ basketball and life-skill project was to give the over 300 youths involved something to aspire to.
Speaking at the second launch of the project, Udeagha also commended the commitment of the youths involved saying: “We are glad at the impact that the role models are having on the kids. Olumide Ayodeji the national basketball team captain and Chineye Ogwumike of Connecticut Sun are all great examples of people who have achieved a lot during a very young age are tremendous inspiration for the youths here”.
The Power Forward pilot program was launched in 2013 in partnership with the ExxonMobil, NBA, Africare, local school and education officials. It had Nigerian Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, fellow countryman and former NBA player Obinna Ekezie, and three-time WNBA Champion Swin Cash in attendance.
The second season of the ‘Power Forward’ project pilot program will include basketball games, clinics, life skills seminars and train-the-trainer sessions for the coaches, culminating in a 2015 Boys and Girls Power Forward final game.
At the launch, ExxonMobil Nigeria Upstream Treasurer, Anibor Kragha, said that the company’s philosophy for supporting the project is that, “a productive, healthy and educated society is a place to do business”
The Power Forward curriculum incorporates leadership training and health awareness through a combination of classroom and athletic activities, with student evaluations at different stages of the initiative. In addition, each school has a coach assigned to oversee the curriculum, guide students through lessons, and monitor progress.
Ogwumike, who visited some of the some of the ‘Power Forward’ centres in Abuja, said, “The Power Forward program is a great example of how the values of basketball are important in everyday life and help build social cohesion. I am thrilled to be back in Nigeria for the program’s second year and to work with these young boys and girls.”
The event was in partnership with the National Basketball Association and Africare where basketball is used to develop health, leadership and life skills among Nigerian youth.
On the average, ExxonMobil said its affiliates in Nigeria commit about $10 to $12 million (US Dollars) annually to sustainable, long-term initiatives among which is the Nigeria/ExxonMobil Track and Field Championship which has produced some of the best athletes for the country.