On Monday, Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet and the University of Toronto’s Rotman Commerce program announced the Fred VanVleet Scholarship, “a new award to support a Black or Indigenous student through their undergraduate degree at the prestigious school.” 

The scholarship will support an undergraduate student focusing on business by providing them with four years of tuition and books and mentorship from VanVleet himself. It will be based on financial need and academic merit, with preference given to a student focused on management. 

“This is to create possibility and light for those who have faced bias, who haven’t had the same chances as others. It’s important to provide opportunities to those who opportunity usually ignores, or works against, or excludes,” VanVleet said. “Academia hasn’t traditionally been an inclusive place for many of us, and so it’s important to make space specifically for people who want to learn, but who are facing barriers that others do not.

“No one expects an 18-year-old kid to know exactly what path they’ll take. But this scholarship will allow that 18-year-old kid to take on experiences and information that will give them the power to shape their own future and decide their own destiny.”

As Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri put it: “Fred sets an example on and off the court, and this scholarship is further evidence of his leadership and his vision. I believe the recipient of the Fred VanVleet Scholarship will benefit not just from the support in their education, but their relationship with this incredible person.”

This is not VanVleet’s first initiative aimed at helping Black and Indiginous people in Toronto and beyond. The Rockford, Illinois, native owns several buildings in his hometown and has a thriving clothing line. VanVleet has also donated autographed memorabilia for auction to Rockford Promise, a nonprofit organization that has raised over $1 million for college scholarships for area youth. In Toronto, VanVleet recently partnered with Penny Appeal Canada to distribute 1,000 custom backpacks to students across the Greater Toronto Area. He also teamed up with UGG for a campaign shot and directed entirely by local BIPOC youth.

VanVleet also recently created a podcast with his financial adviser Derek Folk called Bet on Yourself, where they help “struggling or up-and-coming BIPOC entrepreneurs shape their business, revamp and sometimes relaunch it altogether.” 

While VanVleet is constantly offered partnerships and endorsement deals, he says that it’s important for people of colour to be involved in any initiative that he takes on. 

“It’s just something I’m passionate about. You know, we have to focus on the next generation and one way to do that is to reach back out, pull them along, and give opportunities to people that are very deserving and worthy, but maybe won’t get this chance due to their background or their age,” VanVleet told Complex Canada in a recent interview. “I think it’s important to bring people along with you and be assertive about the people you choose to work with.”

To be considered for the Fred VanVleet Scholarship, students must first apply to Rotman Commerce and then complete the Awards Profile by logging into join.utoronto.ca and following the Awards Profile link.