Camara
Yahoo! Profiles Batouly Camara ’15 as a Next-Generation Changemaker
Suzy Logan

In early December, Blair college counselor and head varsity basketball coach Batouly Camara ’15 was profiled by Yahoo! as part of its “In the Know: Next Gen” series on changemakers who are making a positive impact in the world. A Yahoo! camera crew spent a full day on campus filming Batouly earlier this fall, ultimately creating a “day-in-the-life” video and an accompanying article that document Batouly’s work with Blair students as a counselor and coach—all while continuing to mentor young girls in Guinea, West Africa, in her role as CEO and founder of the nonprofit WAKE (which stands for Women and Kids Empowerment). 

During the interview, Batouly talks about her journey as a young girl in Guinea and becoming a standout basketball player at the University of Connecticut and, later, a professional basketball player in Spain. She founded WAKE in 2017 when she traveled with her parents to their native Guinea, where she ran a basketball clinic for youths. There, she met a girl who opened her eyes to the lack of resources these kids had. “I started WAKE because of one girl,” Batouly said in the video. “I felt it was so irresponsible of me to instill hope in young girls and not give them the resources, the opportunities or the access to fight for their dreams. I felt a personal responsibility at that point to do something.” 

Today, more than 700 kids have participated in WAKE programs and the nonprofit’s facilities and offerings have grown to include two basketball courts (the second of which will be dedicated on December 27), a speaker series and workshops. Despite the busy pace of life at Blair, Batouly is still actively involved in growing the nonprofit and plans to expand WAKE’s basketball camps to 5-day-a-week, 6-week-long programs focused on the intersection of leadership, sport and education. She and her team hope to enroll up to 50 girls while continuing to run the camps for which the organization has become known. Future plans also include building an all-girls boarding school on five acres in Guinea and reinforcing the importance of secondary education, as well as developing more partnerships in New York City that would allow Batouly and her colleagues to host after-school programs for girls in all five boroughs. 

“Education and athletics are at the forefront of really providing a strong foundation and base for our kids to be successful,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be part of young people’s lives through WAKE and being at Blair Academy as a college counselor and girls’ basketball coach. And I believe the role I serve is to be able to create these experiences in these spaces where they empower themselves and they gain the tools necessary to be their greater selves through education and through sport.”

Reflecting on her post-college basketball career in the piece, Batouly touched on some of the challenges of playing in Spain, including the fact that she was the first professional player there to wear a hijab. “But I have to say, it was such a special opportunity as a Muslim woman playing a sport to have young girls say, ‘You gave me the confidence to be myself, to feel seen, to feel worthy and to feel heard.’” 

Batouly’s own mentor and her former Blair coach, longtime history teacher Quint Clarke ’87, makes a cameo in the Yahoo! video to touch on what makes Batouly such a special person and player, noting she is inclusive, caring and has a gift for connecting with people. The two have known each other for 11 years and, now that Batouly is back at Blair, they remain close. Not only is Batouly proud to carry on Q’s legacy as girls’ varsity head basketball coach, but she has also benefited from his advice as the founder of the independent nonprofit “Blair in Kenya,” which has been doing similar work in another part of Africa for many years. 

Reflecting on her own love of basketball—which she calls a source of sisterhood and support—Batouly told Yahoo! that she looks forward to a successful season ahead for Blair on the court. “I am so happy to work at Blair; it is an incredibly supportive community, something that is constantly reiterated at every turn,” she said. “I am grateful to the Blair community and extended Blair family, and I hope alums of every class year will consider coming back and checking out some of our games!”

Ending the Yahoo! interview with her characteristic optimism, Batouly noted that she is proud of her generation. “I think it is filled with fearless changemakers who see something that is not right and feel like they have everything they need to make a difference,” she said. Part of making a difference, Batouly concluded, is dreaming big and developing in the next generation the confidence and education to foster agency in and access for others—and, as she has shown, the basketball court is a great place to start. 

To read the Yahoo! article in full and watch the video, click here.
 

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