Bengals safety Shawn Williams earned the NFLPA's Community MVP Award for Week 7 after leading an initiative to deliver $100,000 worth of Chromebooks to high school students and their families in Blakely, Ga.
Williams' Back-to-School Chromebook Drive was an event that took months of diligent planning and execution. He wanted to help his hometown community especially the kids during this unprecedented time in history, and he made an impact in a big way.
A recent study done by the Early County School District in Blakely Georgia reported that 43 percent of their students did not have access to either high speed internet or an at-home learning device. Since the decision was made for Early County to continue some form of remote learning for at least the first half of the school year, Williams wanted to help the students at his alma mater high school. Recognizing the importance and impact of technology and access to information, he decided he wanted to focus on providing Chromebooks to those students in-need.
Williams reached out to a past teacher of his, Jennifer Brown, who is now a superintendent for the district as well as Alvin Williams, Early County High's principal for help. The school in conjunction with a local nonprofit, Think About It! Consulting Services, created a Chromebook application for families in-need to apply for a device for their high school children. Along with Think About It!, Shawn Williams partnered with another nonprofit Cxmmunity to help secure a vendor to purchase Chromebooks in bulk. Shawn also started a GoFundMe campaign through Cxmmunity to help with the purchase of the Chromebooks, donating $50,000 himself to start it off. After months of generous donations, Shawn Williams was able to raise an additional $15,000 plus a $5,000 grant from the NFL Foundation which went towards Think About It! to help purchase the Chromebooks.
The Bengals safety covered the rest of the costs associated with making sure all 250 kids that applied received a device. Williams personally donated over $80,000 and raised $20,000 in donations that went toward the purchase of 250 devices that came downloaded with the classroom software they needed and a 3-year warranty on both the hardware and software.
The Chromebook drive event was a success. For two hours students and their families came during scheduled periods, in compliance with Blakely's COVID-19 safety rules, to pick up their Chromebook and take pictures with a cardboard cutout of Williams since he wasn't able to personally be there. Each student and family member surprised Williams with a personal thank you card that was sent to him in Cincinnati. The event had a great host of volunteers from the school, nonprofit, local police, the mayor and other community members including Shawn's mom, to help with the distribution of the devices. Williams wants to continue to raise money for organizations like Think About It! Consulting Services and Cxmmunity which provide minority youth mentoring, counseling and opportunities that on their own they wouldn't be able to experience.