Olympic gold medalist Andre De Grasse is as dedicated to empowering youth as he is to dominating the track. With the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation, Andre strives to provide Canadian teens with the same opportunities he had growing up in Markham, Ontario.
Tell us about your foundation, The Andre De Grasse Family Foundation.
I created the foundation to help provide youth with the kinds of opportunities that were essential to me in making me who I am. The goal of the Andre De Grasse Family Foundation is to inspire and empower youth through access to sports, education, and health care. We develop partnerships to deliver sports programs, help teens secure scholarship opportunities for post-secondary education, and positively impact the physical and mental health of kids.
Why was it important for you to start this foundation?
I wanted to be able to have a foundation and be able to pay it forward and give back. I was able to get the resources and be able to make it to that next level. If other kids could have that opportunity I had, you will see to see a lot more kids in Canada being able to run fast and jump far. I want to help create that kind of future.
A lot of people wait until the end of their career to do it, and I said, “Why not just start it now, while I’m hot and I’m relevant in the world?” It will be easier to do that now while I’m competing, and when I finish my career, I can expand it.
Have you always been passionate about supporting youth?
Growing up, I was always on the basketball court with my friends and on weekends, I volunteered at the Yonge Street Mission helping out and organizing activities for kids. It gave kids a place to come in and stay away from trouble, work on their homework, play sports … they could play video games, or cards, or whatever they wanted to do. It’s a way for them to get away from the outside noise. I saw that sometimes even the smallest things can make a big difference in their futures.
Is there anything specific from your teen years that helped shape you into who you are today?
There were lots of things that helped me as a teen to shape my future. Many of these things I am trying to duplicate for teens with my foundation. The loss of the basketball program at my high school was really difficult for me but then I found I was good at track. I was fortunate to work with an influential coach, Tony Sharpe, who guided my performance on the track and helped me secure a scholarship for college that set me up for the future. Even though I started track late in my teenage years, I learned that by working hard and with the right support, the future could be golden.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give your teenage self?
Keep working hard and following your dreams, stay confident, committed and never give up on yourself.