While it’s long been documented that basketball can be utilized as a tool to inspire and empower many at-risk youth, and in many occasions leading to a better socio-economic outlook, the stories usually revolve around the select few inner-city American kids that can claim the rags-to-riches NBA salary narrative or D-1 offers. The AAU circuit and ubiquitous skills camps in North America makes such feat a bit more possible.

But in many other corners of the world, where basic elementary educational and recreational resources are scarce to begin with, such outcomes just aren’t very realistic.

And so recognizing the barriers, the SEED Project has emerged over the last decade as a tool to combat the disadvantages that kids in Senegal face, operating a fully immersed program for 12 years that has provided teens in the West African country with the opportunity to experience upward mobility.

SEED, which is short for Sports for Education and Economic Development, combines education and basketball to bring about social change to a country where recent statistics show the unemployment rate at close to 50% and where over half the nation lives below the poverty line.

Recognizing the inefficiencies in the country’s youth sport infrastructure and elite development, the program has designed two main initiatives that bridge those gaps: SEED Academy and SEED Rise.

The academy serves as a boarding school for male and female student-athletes whose curriculum, which includes English, test prep, leadership and entrepreneurship skills, prepares them for four-year universities in Africa, Europe and the US. The school hosts 40 high-potential boys and girls within the grades of 7th through 12th. All students also partake in community and social programs.

The Rise program is essentially the middle school/youth after school branch that specializes in developing youth sports program infrastructure, combining education, leadership and social responsibility. It serves over 250 young people throughout Senegal.

And just like how we know that numbers don’t lie when it comes to analyzing players’ efficiency on the court, the tremendous success of SEED is also evident in the stats.

  • While only 5% of the national population matriculate to a four-year college or university, 75% of SEED Academy alumni have gone on to matriculate to higher education institutions.
  • Despite the fact that only 31% of the national population passes the high school exit exam, 78% of SEED Academy seniors have done so in the past two years.
  • At SEED Rise, while only 28% of the national population passes the exit exam, 85% of the kids in the program have done so.
  • Overall, $5.8 million in college scholarships have been earned to-date by SEED Academy graduates.

Its on-court success is just as impressive:

  • 24 of its alumni have gone on to play college basketball in the US (55 overall)
  • 9 played in the 2014 NCAA post-season
  • 60% of Senegal’s U18 and U16 boys and girls national teams come from the SEED program
  • 3 members of Senegal Men’s National Team are SEED alumni — including NBA first round draft pick Gorgui Dieng

SEED brought some of its student-athletes to New York and Philadelphia last summer to partake in a week-long initiative that took them to Rucker Park for an all-star game and to UPenn’s Wharton Business School for a career and leadership symposium, among other events.

Check out the videos above for a visual sense of the kind of impact the program has made on its students. For more information on the program or to make a donation, please visit seedproject.org.