ncu-spring-2017-cover-dejeanette-flournoy

Former Professional Basketball Player
Uses NCU Degree to Help Girls Excel

Written by Judy Tierney

Some students use their advanced degrees to pursue a new career path or to further their education in their current field. Then there are students like Dejeanette Flournoy, NCU 2012 Master of Education in athletic administration graduate, who earned her degree so that she could pursue an outside passion in addition to her existing job.

Kelley Walters Dejeanette Flournoy

Flournoy is a Sheriff’s Officer for the Department of Corrections for Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago and its surrounding areas. On the side she is the Director of Future Hoopers of America, a nonprofit she founded in 2011. The organization is devoted to using athletics and sports, particularly basketball, as a means to teach life skills to girls.

Future Hoopers of America provides mentorship, academic advisement, tutoring, and collegiate scholarship opportunities through athletics for girls ages 13 to 18. To date, over 100 scholarship offers have been extended to more than 240 participants who have attended the organization’s events.

The Sensational Sixty Showcase, the organization’s most high-profile, invitation-only event, hosts 60 young women each summer for a day of basketball competition, coaching and exposure to collegiate coaches. Flournoy hand-picks the invitees based on character and talent on and off the court.

A native Chicagoan, Flournoy explained that her love for the sport and for giving back were fostered at George Washington High School. It was there that her own coaches, including "Chilly" Willie Byrd and Thomas Dobson, helped her through hard times and provided her with genuine and honest guidance for her life ahead.

“I was guided by people who were in educational and athletic administration, the areas and industry in which I wanted to enhance my knowledge and growth.”

Dejeanette Flournoy, 2012 Master of Education

Flournoy went on to graduate from the University of Illinois in Chicago with a degree in communications, before going overseas to play professional basketball in Spain, Switzerland and Portugal. “While it was not a tangible educational experience, learning about other cultures and about sports in other countries helped grow my knowledge about people and the world in general,” she said. “I have to consider those experiences as part of my educational background because they really made me a better, more well-rounded, person.”

During the off-season, she sought ways to give back to the younger generation through coaching, mentorship and academic tutoring.

In 2010, she decided to go back to school to earn her master’s degree. “I chose NCU because it offered a unique, professional approach to an online degree program,” Flournoy said. “I was guided by people who were in educational and athletic administration, the areas and industry in which I wanted to enhance my knowledge and growth.”

Flournoy credits one of her NCU professors in particular with having a special influence on her decision to start the nonprofit. Dr. Thomas Pucci, an athletic administrator, guided her through the thought process and the things she’d need to consider as she was evaluating her next move.

“He provided references for me when I was trying to get into the business as a collegiate coach, but by narrowing things down, I learned that wasn’t the avenue for me,” Flournoy said. “I wanted something bigger, where I could make a more widespread impact.”

Having excelled in athletics and education herself, Flournoy dreamed of sharing her experiences with the younger generation of female student athletes. “There are so few quality events that are run by females, and I just felt that there was a great need for me to do this,” she explained. “My hope in starting this nonprofit was that girls would learn and grow, and that in the future one of them would turn around and do what I am doing now.”

“I wanted something bigger, where I could make a more widespread impact.”

Dejeanette Flournoy

Today, Flournoy said her organization is making a difference with help from God, her family, close friends and a network of parents, kids, coaches and sponsors who believe in her vision. Her mother has been there from the beginning, and her younger brother, a U.S. Army veteran, serves as her right-hand man and the organization’s Vice President.

“God, my mom and my little brother are everything to me,” she said. “In addition, my best friends, who I like to call my fave five, offer so much support, critique and analysis about what I’m doing. I know I can always count on them.”

All of this support helps Flournoy face some of the tests of starting something new on your own. “One of the most difficult challenges initially was getting people who could impact the organization to see the vision and believe in it,” she said. “But now I’m getting the buy-in from parents, kids and coaches.”

Flournoy also appreciates her loyal sponsors, including Teamsters Local 700, Chicago Home of Chicken and Waffles and her local Sam’s Club, Pizza Hut and Starbucks, many of whom have been with her since day one. “I have garnered strong support, but with the pace that the event and organization are growing, there’s always a greater need for more financial resources to fulfill the mission and goals.”

Flournoy remains steadfast in her pursuit to grow the organization further to help more girls. “The success is there, the proof is there, and the results are there,” she said. “If you have the vision and that one objective in front of you, then you can always stay focused on the finish line.”

The 3rd annual Future Hoopers of America Sensational Sixty Showcase will be held at the Lincoln Center in Highland, Indiana on Sunday, July 9, 2017. For more information about the event, or for sponsorship opportunities, please contact Dejeanette Flournoy.