NBA Foundation announces CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals as first Canadian grant recipient

NEW YORK AND TORONTO – The NBA Foundation today announced a $500,000 grant to CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals for the new Canadian Collective Impact Project.  CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals – an organization that addresses economic and social barriers affecting Black youth through workforce development, education and advocacy – will lead the Collective Impact Project, comprised of three organizations working in collaboration to build economic opportunity for Black youth across Canada.

The grant is the NBA Foundation’s first in Canada and will support young people in Toronto and Montreal, furthering the Foundation’s mission to create opportunities for employment, career advancement and drive greater economic empowerment for Black youth.  Established in August 2020 to reduce the persistent racial wealth gap, the NBA Foundation is the league’s first-ever charitable foundation that invests in local and national organizations that promote school-to-career and workforce development opportunities for Black youth.

CEE, which is Black and women-led, aims to create a society and economy in which Black youth achieve financial prosperity and a high quality of life for themselves and their families to contribute to the advancement of Canada.  In partnership with DESTA Black Youth Network and MLSE LaunchPad, the grant will be used to create workforce development programs for Black youth.  Programming will focus on specific markets experiencing a lack in representation, including business, technology, art, culture, film and sports.

Specifically, the grant will support and expand the CEE TECH Intro to Digital Technology program, a free 24-week program that introduces youth to web-design, video-game development and social media management.  It will also increase full-time employment in the recreation and sport sector with MLSE LaunchPad through the “LeaderIn-Training (LIT)” Program that prepares youth ages 15-18 for the workforce through a robust offering of professional and personal development and launch the DESTA Production Assistant Training program to provide skills training necessary for careers in the TV and film industries.  The partnership will tip off in Toronto and Montreal, where the organizations currently operate, but look to expand to additional Canadian cities in the future.

“The NBA plays an important role within the Black community, where we see teams display hard work, dedication and perseverance,” said CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals Executive Director Agape Gessesse.  “It is these lessons that align so well with the mission of CEE, and why were so excited to partner with the NBA Foundation.  As the inaugural grantee in Canada, CEE will work with Black young people to create a society and economy in which Black youth achieve a high quality of life for themselves and their families.”

“One of the goals of the NBA Foundation is to create employment opportunities for Black youth that narrow the racial wealth gap and shift societal attitudes,” said Greg Taylor, NBA Foundation Executive Director.  “We are excited to partner with CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals, DESTA Black Youth Network and MLSE Launchpad to help effect this institutional change across Canada.”

The grant will enhance and build upon the important work of these national and local organizations that align with the NBA Foundation’s goals to provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development for individuals in Black communities across the United States and Canada.  DESTA was founded in 2006 and works to empower Black young adults between the ages of 18 to 35 to achieve their educational, employability and entrepreneurship goals through tutoring, skills training programs, mentorship, individual coaching, career guidance and access to networking and internship opportunities.  Additionally, MLSE LaunchPad’s focus is on achieving sustainable, wide-ranging social outcomes, with a programmatic focus on education, employment, mental and physical health, for youth ages 6-29 facing barriers through a Sport For Development approach.

“We are honoured to partner with the NBA Foundation, CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and DESTA Black Youth Network to help change the game for Black youth in Canada,” said Tanya Mruck, Executive Director, MLSE LaunchPad.  “It is time to level the playing field and ensure Black youth have access to the social capital and training support they need to thrive in a globalized economy.  Partnerships like this one provide the model for how deeply collaborative, systems-change projects can amplify impact.”

“Black youth face unique challenges and barriers to meaningful employment in Canada.  By creating opportunities and access where typically we don’t see ourselves represented, we can help to overcome these barriers,” said Kassandra Kernisan, Executive Director of DESTA Black Youth Network.  “It’s imperative that we create stronger networks within Black communities that enable our youth to see themselves in varied fields of employment and allow them to get the support and mentorship that they need to build successful lives.  We are excited to be partnering with the NBA Foundation, the CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals and MLSE LaunchPad to expand this very important mission and we look forward to helping more Black Canadians thrive.”

Previously, the NBA Foundation announced two rounds of grants totaling more than $5 million to 16 non-profits.  The Foundation will continue to collaborate with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the NBPA to support national and local organizations and their efforts to increase education and employment access in Black communities.  Over the next 10 years, the 30 NBA team governors will collectively contribute $30 million annually in initial funding and the NBA Foundation will work strategically to develop additional funding sources.

The NBA Foundation continues to accept grant applications for 2021 on a rolling basis.  To be considered for a grant, an organization must focus on school-to-career employment opportunities that target Black youth ages 14-24 and serve at least 25 young people across its programs.

To learn more about the NBA Foundation or apply for a grant, please visit