Chris Rogers

Founder, Together Assisting People (TAP) Inc.

Birmingham, AL

During my senior year at the University of Alabama, I started to ask guys in the locker room, “What are some things that you wish you would have known before coming to college?” The majority of my teammates replied, "Man, I wish I had known about finance. I wish I had known about this or that."

I realized that we all shared the same sentiments. I'm a first generation kid. I experienced firsthand the adverse effects of educational inequity on inner-city and rural-area African American youth. A lot of athletes struggle to read, myself included. I didn't know how to read until after the ninth grade. I believe this is because society does not invest in helping at-risk African American kids, particularly male athletes, to overcome the achievement gap. Instead, we are taught how to run a 4.4 40-yard dash or bench-press 300 pounds.

As a result, many of us matriculate through university, carrying entire teams and cities to national championships, while lacking the skills and knowledge required to carry ourselves successfully in the real world.

This is the reality and societal dysfunction that led me to create TAP.  You've got to find ways to connect with young males in order to engage them. We use sports as a catalyst-- a means to an end-- rather than the ultimate goal. Athletics help us talk to kids about professionalism, workforce development, entrepreneurship, community service, and technology.

Mentorship has [also] been critical for me. When I was a kid, I got kicked out of middle school. A guy named Coach Rich came to meet with me and said, "Hey, you’ve got a chance to go play college football on a scholarship." At the time, I was having trouble at home and my mom was getting ready to kick me out of the house. He let me stay with him while he helped me get my life on track. A lot of times, kids don't see what we see in them. Sometimes, you have to show them positivity and affirmation. Coach Rich paid it forward for me, and now I'm doing what he did for me here in Alabama.

TAP will continue to be a game changer for generations to come. People naturally gravitate to athletes. If we can guide our athletes to become financially literate, tactfully leverage their social media, make sound decisions and most importantly give back to their communities, then I really believe it will have a ripple effect on our entire societal structure.

I believe that if we can transform our athletes into true role models, then young people across the world will follow suit.

To learn more about TAP Inc., visit www.tapnfp.org.