MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Jefferson has established himself as a go-to guy for the Vikings.
Explosive plays, tough catches over the middle, impossible one-handers on fourth-and-18, The Griddy and flashy smiles to go with an electric, positive attitude.
Last week, the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year became the go-to guy for more than two dozen Northside Achievement Zone scholars. Jefferson partnered with Microsoft Surface to donate thirty (30) Microsoft Surface Go 2 laptops to empower scholars on their academic journey. The donation occurred at Northside Achievement Zone’s new office space on North 2nd Street.
The distribution continued the connection Jefferson has formed with Northside Achievement Zone, which works to close the achievement gap and end generational poverty in North Minneapolis through support programs for youth, ages 0 to 18, and their families.
“Just another part of the journey for me. Working with Northside Achievement Zone on other events and giveaways that I’ve been doing with them, and this just adds on to the list,” Jefferson said. “They’re taking care of the younger generation, the generation that’s going to set this world up in the future, so I always want to be hands-on with those type of kids, always try to give them an extra smile on their face and that extra momentum and extra drive to achieve the things that people never thought they’d achieve.”
It’s somewhat hard to believe given Jefferson’s first three seasons that have all earned trips to the Pro Bowl and the fact that he set Vikings records for receptions and yards in a season last fall, but there were people who placed limits on their expectations for him along his path.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson donated Microsoft Surface laptops to Northside Achievement Zone scholars.
He wasn’t touted out of high school, his versatility in college was underappreciated, and teams in the 2020 NFL Draft passed on him until Minnesota selected him with the 22nd overall pick.
“A lot of people didn’t think I was going to be on this level, so being able to play football, and this is one of the great ways of giving back, just being able to be in my situation,” Jefferson said.
Northside Achievement Zone President and CEO Sondra Samuels said NAZ’s staff, the young people and their families appreciate the way Jefferson and NAZ have “adopted” each other. The relationship has included Jefferson selecting Northside Achievement Zone for his My Cause My Cleats.
“We had Justin Jefferson, the Offensive Player of the Year, of the Universe, here to tell our kids that he sees them, giving them the incredible Surface laptops from Microsoft,” Samuels said. “It’s thrilling that our kids know they are important, that you had a very important person, a very important organization giving them very important things for their future.”
James Bernstrom, Head of Microsoft’s NFL partnership, said Northside Achievement Zone runs a “tremendous program” and Microsoft appreciated the opportunity to join forces with Jefferson and the Vikings to support the young people pursue their dreams.
“This is a fantastic day. I am passionate about what we do,” Bernstrom said. “We obviously have a requirement to find authentic technology partnerships to make a difference in the game of football, to make a difference in how people reach fans and how teams are going to win games and even how folks like Justin Jefferson can reach their fans and do good. There’s a tremendous passion there, but equally, I have a passion to truly find ways to give back to support those that are doing it.”
Samuels said Northside Achievement Zone’s new space will enable the organization to expand services to the nearly 1,000 families and almost 2,000 scholars in the program.
“For us to work with scholars every day here on the Northside, where they’re facing so many challenges in terms of the community, in terms of stereotypes, just so many hard things, I mean, everybody sees it in the news, but they’re also doing some incredible things,” Samuels said. “Many of them are going to college, so for them to be recognized and seen by Justin Jefferson, by the Vikings and by Microsoft, it reinforces what we keep trying to tell them, that, ‘You have unlimited potential, and we see your star power.’ This is really the future of not just this community but the entire country.”
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