Jerome Williams, known to many as the Junk Yard Dog, earned his nickname during his stint with the Detroit Pistons. His teammates coined him ‘JYD’ for his hard work ethic and willingness to do a lot of the “garbage” jobs, such as rebounding, playing defense, setting strong screens and the other basic fundamentals. Since the conclusion of his playing career, Jerome has used that same mentality to promote the importance of education to the country’s youth via his Shooting for Peace program.
Williams, who initially began his own service project called Jerome’s Youth Development (JYD) Project, has long been an advocate for helping young people reach their highest potential. After starting the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) Las Vegas chapter and outreach to the local community, Williams immediately saw the parallels between the NBRPA’s community initiatives and those of the JYD Project, and decided to pair the two together. Today, that marriage is known as Shooting for Peace.
“The efforts on both sides were focused on professional and retired athletes going out and serving the community,” said Williams. “Because doing so really requires a brigade of players, I knew it was the perfect time to bridge the two initiatives. The result is a program that serves a multitude of young people in a significant way.”
Shooting for Peace has since grown into a nationwide tour and includes several different facets that aid students. Benefits include digital education services, scholarships from notable HBCUs, and school visits from the Legends themselves, which include a Q&A panel, poetry and essay contest, and a game pitting the Legends against the school team. Last year, NBA Legends made stops in various chapter cities, including Las Vegas, Boston, Harlem, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Toronto, Miami, Oakland, and more.
It is no secret that students who go on to earn a college degree are more likely to lead productive lives in society. Jerome Williams is no stranger to this fact. He has worked harder than most to achieve his dreams. In fact, Jerome paid his own tuition at a junior college to earn his Associate’s degree. He went on to receive a full scholarship from Georgetown University, as well as several other certifications in his professional life. His passion for this work is clear and reflective of his own personal values.
“I believe that kids today need their education now more than ever,” says Williams. “We take great pride in showing them how the Legends of the game and a good education work hand-in-hand.”
Local chapters encourage all members — from the NBA to WNBA to the Harlem Globetrotters — to get involved with Shooting for Peace. No matter what their professional playing careers looked like, each and every one of them started at the same place: school. All of these stories, especially those that include hardship, are necessary for students to hear.
“By hearing directly from Legends, these young people learn that while they can be an athlete, it is being a student-athlete that is really most important for lifelong success.”
A special thanks to all of the chapter presidents for their leadership with Shooting for Peace. This program would not be what it is today without them.