A DC area native, Donald Curtis, SOC/MA ’14, believes in helping young adults discover their potential and empowering them to set the course for a future without limitations.
With a love of sports and his abilities for mentoring and coaching others, Donald founded SOUL (Student-Athletes Organized to Understand Leadership) in 2013. This mission-driven nonprofit works to educate and empower low-income student-athletes to break the cycle of poverty, using athletics as a catalyst for social change. Six years later, Donald continues to serve as executive director for this continually growing sports-based youth development program operating in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and San Francisco. Together with public schools, community organizations, businesses, universities, and other educational centers, SOUL creates and implements opportunities for empowering students from low-income communities.
Prior to SOUL’s inception, Donald worked for AU’s Center for Community Engagement and Service. It was during this time that he honed skills which would serve as the foundational approach of SOUL—combining academics and athletics to engage youth in activities that enhance their confidence and capabilities in sports and in life.
The most rewarding part of this work, according to Donald is, “seeing the program grow and having the ability to connect with young people in different aspects of their lives.”
Whether a participant in a SOUL program, a current AU student or alum, Donald emphasizes the importance of understanding that it is your own different experiences that make you who you are. He also encourages others not to limit their perspectives regarding their ability to play transformative roles in the lives of others. “On a college campus like AU there are so many great minds walking around, they’re teaching classes, going to class, they’re in support services. They are doing different things that can provide unique perspectives that may be different from your own. Just be open and try to connect with as many people as you can. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.”
When it comes to volunteer engagement, SOUL has a high level of involvement from AU alumni. Two of the staff members are even Eagles who started out as volunteers. “We have a lot of AU folks involved, and if there is anyone else who would like to join us in the work we’re doing, we’re always open to new ways to get engaged,” says Donald. Interested in volunteering? SOUL is on the lookout for program tutors, coaches, and mentors.