Have you ever had a partnership—maybe with a teacher, coach, or colleague—that was instrumental in your life or your growth?
Those types of partnerships are so valuable—the right ones can make all the difference.
In my life so far, I’ve been blessed with a number of great partnerships.
I’ve had partnerships with great coaches, who helped guide my basketball career from the early days through my years in the NBA, as well as with teammates and other players who pushed me, encouraged me, and even trash talked me to be my best.
I’ve had partnerships with professors, who helped me transition from athletics to the corporate world, as well as colleagues who’ve molded me into a leader and a problem solver.
And I’ve had partnerships with my family—first with my parents, who instilled in me the importance of education (as well as gave me a lot of love), and then for the last 20 years with my wife, Delicia, as we raise our two kids and shape our own family together.
But there’s also been a partnership that’s grown over the last 15 years that’s been especially meaningful to me, and that’s with my sister, Qaadirah.
Qaadirah is the CEO of the Future Foundation, the foundation my wife and I started in 2001 to provide education and enrichment to kids living in the Atlanta neighborhood my siblings and I grew up in.
When we started the foundation, we were an afterschool program serving a handful of students at the elementary school we attended as kids. We were finding our footing, establishing our board, all while I was playing for the Hawks, wrapped up in the travel and the time commitments that each season demands.
As Qaadirah finished up her masters degree and moved back to Atlanta, she began working for the foundation. She jumped right in and got to work, learning and enhancing the initiatives we were focused on. It didn’t take long for her to start putting her touch on our work and pushing me on my vision for what the Future Foundation could accomplish.
She was the first one to see that the foundation’s impact was more than providing educational resources to a small group of kids—it had the potential to impact entire families and break the cycle of poverty that many had lived in for generations.
Eventually our executive director left, and we began the process of finding a new one. Soon, it became clear that Qaadirah would be the perfect fit. She certainly had the passion and the vision we were looking for.
I can’t remember if I brought it up or if she did (most likely her…even though I’m her older brother, she’s usually telling me what to do!), but soon it was set: Qaadirah was our new CEO.
It was the best decision we could’ve made, because I can’t imagine a better person to lead the Future Foundation—or a better partner to have with me to support the foundation’s mission.
Under her leadership, the Future Foundation has grown so much. We’ve expanded from a handful of kids at one elementary school to serving 1,000 to 1,500 families across multiple high schools, depending on the year. We’ve grown our revenue from $230K to $2 million. And we’ve taken a holistic approach to breaking the cycle of poverty, providing our students with the education, experiences, relationships, and life skills they need to become capable, courageous adults.
Most notably of all, 100% of the kids participating in our program graduate high school on time! They also have continuing access to the social capital and relationships they formed while in our programs, leading to greater life-long success.
All of this is happening because of Qaadirah and the great team she has working with her at the Future Foundation.
She is the living example of what a great partnership can do. I may have had the foundation’s original vision, but like any great partner does, she pushes me and sees opportunities to make my vision even better—and she has.
I see my partnership with Qaadirah as a blessing in so many ways, but the biggest is the common experiences we share. The same things that impacted her have impacted me, and I love knowing that that shared experience is what is driving her commitment to this work.
It’s also such a blessing to partner with someone I trust. The relationship and bond I have with her is deep, and because of that we can have some raw moments and tough conversations. She can get through to me in a way that few other people can, and I’m always grateful for her honesty (well, almost always!).
I hope you have at least one great partner in your life, too.
Whether it’s a spouse, a mentor, a colleague, or a sibling, life and work seem so much better when you’ve got someone alongside you, committed to the goals you’re trying to accomplish, while also caring about the person you are now and the one you’re striving to become.
May we all find partners that support us like that—and support someone else that way in return.