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By Robert Donachie
Deion Sanders, in partnership with Stand Together, announced Saturday at the Koch Seminar network conference in Colorado the launch of a $21 million initiative called “Prime 5” to support and empower organizations that have demonstrated both the willingness and ability to transform the lives of individuals facing persistent, crippling poverty in Dallas, Tx.
Sanders, a former all-pro NFL cornerback for the Super Bowl champion the Dallas Cowboys, was really unsure of what to think when he first attended a Koch Seminar network conference in Palm Springs, Ca. in January.
But what Sanders experienced at the January conference opened his eyes to a group of influential people working to make empower individuals to improve not only their communities and the nation. (RELATED: Deion Sanders Is On The Same Team As Charles Koch)
“I came to the seminar in January and did not understand what I was walking into until we got here,” Sanders told reporters in a conference room at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.
“I was amazed, shocked and astonished at the capability, the team and the support that was set forth by the Koch family, the Koch foundation and stand together,” he said at the conference.
Sanders says that helping people, in particular youth in need, is really who he is. “Football and baseball is what I played but this is what I am. I do this for real and I’m not playing games,” Sanders said. “This is really what I do.”
Sanders’ partner in the initiative–Stand Together–is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in January 2016 and is run by executive director Evan Feinberg, a former president of Generation Opportunity and program manager for the Charles Koch Institute in Virginia.
“Stand Together’s vision is to unleash the power of communities to help people improve their lives. What we are trying to do is help people realize their potential,” Feinberg told reporters. “We believe that every person has unlimited potential…If we can tap into that, they can not only lift themselves up but contribute to making the country and the world a better place.”
Stand Together traverses the country to find the most successful social entrepreneurs that are delivering on that transformation for individuals. In their search, they came across a group in Dallas called Urban Specialists, a group that takes former gang leaders, criminals and otherwise wayward youth and empowers them to return to their communities and help at-risk kids shape up, stay safe, and provide their respective communities with a positive role model.
Sanders is joined by Pastor Omar Jahwar, the founder of Urban Specialists and a 20-year friend of Sanders. He is also the pastor of a church in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.
Feinberg learned that Sanders was involved with Urban Specialists, and, after hearing him speak in January, decided it was time to team up and the Prime 5 initiative was born.
“I’ve very committed to and I’m happy that Stand Together could partner with me. I’m thankful for being a part of the winning team,” Sanders said.
The prime comes from Deion’s infamous nickname “Primetime,” which adoring fans in Dallas, Atlanta and San Francisco know all too well. The 5 is the five key areas Stand Together has identified as the primary drivers of persistent poverty: chronic joblessness, educational failure, addiction, personal debt and breakdowns in the family and at-risk youth.
Fundraising for the program started Saturday morning, Sanders quipped. The funds raised through Prime 5 will be allocated to both current and future Stand Together Catalyst organizations that have a proven track record of success in helping individuals transform their lives.