Creating A Haven
Alum Voices: Jair Bolden
This article was written for the 2023/Volume 1 issue of The Westonian by Domi Waldron.
After graduating from Westtown in 2016, Jair Bolden, an NCAA Division 1 basketball athlete, went on to play for Butler University. But rather than join the NBA after college, Bolden transformed his own passion for basketball into a mission to make it more accessible to young people in under-resourced communities, and to nurture the same passion in them.
Bolden discovered his love for basketball as a boy. For Bolden and his friends, basketball was a catalyst for their futures as student-athletes. “We would play ball day after day to reignite the self-awareness and determination that basketball inspired in us. Our haven was the game.” He felt he could be himself on the court, and playing basketball gave him a sense of inner calm that he could not find anywhere else.
Bolden came to Westtown in ninth grade where his basketball skills shone—he was one of few players to score 1,000 points during his career at Westtown. He says his mentor, Andrew Landes, and his coach, Seth Berger, instilled in him what it means to be an athlete and leader in the community. Not only did Westtown elevate Bolden’s abilities on the court, but also it helped him develop confidence and succeed off the court. He excelled academically and was co-Student
Body President. “My time at Westtown shaped me in more ways that I could imagine. I learned about the world. I learned a great deal about myself and what was important to me,” he says. “I did not realize until later that I was not only being taught how to be a better student, player, and leader, but also a better person.”
As an adult, Bolden recognized that the game that had changed his life was not as accessible to many children in under-resourced neighborhoods as it was for him when he was young. Children in these communities are often impacted by lack of access to programs and equipment and underfunded educational systems. Bolden saw these inequities and it became his mission
to make basketball more accessible, sparking the vision for the Grey Rose Foundation. “There are a lot of talented kids who don’t have the opportunities I had. I’ve learned so much through the game of basketball. It is a beautiful game that teaches you so many life lessons. If you can play basketball at a competitive level where you care about the game and give it your all, then basketball is a window to your soul and your personality. That was a perfect way to give back to the next generation.”
The mission of the Grey Rose Foundation is to help those in need through basketball and to use the game to engage with young people in disenfranchised communities. The Foundation hopes to close the gap many young basketball athletes face. Not all young athletes have access to the funds needed to participate in basketball camps, programs, and tournaments, so by the time they reach high school and can play at a much more competitive level, they are behind.
Bolden has a deep sense of community and strives to help others. “Applying the core values of stewardship, equality, and community into daily life [and] using my passion for basketball through Grey Rose is me putting into practice what I learned from my time at Westtown
from staff, teachers, and fellow students.” And, he adds, “The emotional skills that I learned at Westtown were some of the big driving forces for me to create the Grey Rose Foundation.”
While he still loves playing basketball, Bolden finds new joy in spreading his love of the game through coaching, mentorship, and running the Foundation. He is committed to making the sport available to all young athletes regardless of their socioeconomic status, and is grateful to be able to lead an organization that helps ensure that the next generation of basketball players can enjoy the life-changing sport that changed him.
To learn more about the Grey Rose Foundation visit: www.greyrosefoundation.com.