The Rams broke the NFL's color barrier in 1946 with the signing of Kenny Washington, a UCLA standout and LA-native. Today, Kenny Washington inspires many for being the first Black player signed by an NFL team in the modern era, ending a 12-year ban on Black players in the league.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of Kenny Washington's signing and as part of the Rams Inspire Change efforts, the team created the Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship to provide up to four years of financial support for 13 students from lower-resourced communities who are among the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education. The scholarship also includes advisement support from Fulfillment Fund (FF), a community partner of the Rams.
On Thursday, May 5, the Rams recognized the first class of Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship recipients at Fulfillment Fund's Sip & Celebrate event at SoFi Stadium.
"We leaned on Fulfillment Fund's guidance, their expertise, and we worked together to build the Kenny Washington Memorial Scholarship from the ground up," said Johnathan Franklin, Rams Director of Social Justice and Football Development. "We created this scholarship to highlight his core values. When I think about Kenny, I'm reminded of our scholars today."
The 13 scholars from all walks of life joined the event. One-by-one they were recognized and received a Kenny Washington and Rams-themed stole along with a game ball and scholarship certificate. Donte Lewis Jr., a scholarship recipient, shared a few remarks to close the ceremony.
"As a kid from South Central Los Angeles, I realized there were not a lot of opportunities for me to succeed. When I got to high school, I realized higher education was possible for a better future," said Lewis. "With the support of the Rams and Fulfillment Fund, I know that my fellow scholars and I will continue to impact the world through Kenny Washington's vision of persevering in the face of adversity to continue to break barriers and inspire others to make a difference with our actions."
Following the ceremony, the founding family of Fulfillment Fund, the Gitnick family, was honored for their decades-long commitment to the organization. The Rams Cheerleaders, mascot Rampage and the Vince Lombardi Trophy also joined the inaugural evening to celebrate the scholarship recipients.
"What keeps us strong is that we are constantly practicing how to evolve ourselves and meet our student's changing needs, while at the same time, looking ahead," said Joanne Reyes, CEO of Fulfillment Fund.
Fulfillment Fund is a life-changing organization that helps make college a reality for first-generation and lower-income students. Since 1977, we have been empowering students in Los Angeles to access and afford higher education. We partner with local high schools in educationally and economically under-resourced communities to support our students through college graduation and provide crucial life skills to help them transition into the workforce successfully.
To learn more about the Rams Inspire Change efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community/inspire-change.