Jamal K. Atkins ’01 chose Shenandoah because of former Head Basketball Coach Robert T. Harris and the fact that he knew two students who were already on the team (one being from the same neighborhood). Coach Harris came to some of Atkins’ high school basketball games his senior year, invited him to come tour the campus and stayed in touch the following months after.
“SU is a safe, open and accepting environment for you to find out who you are and grow into that person,” said Atkins. “You will be challenged, you will be tested, you will be corrected, but most importantly you will be supported.”
Some of Atkins’ fondest memories of his time at Shenandoah are going to the NCAA tournament with the Men’s Basketball team in 1996 and building lifelong friendships that remain strong even after 27 years. Also during his time at the university, he was awarded a plaque for his outstanding service to WSUR, was chosen as Homecoming Prince, was co-captain of the Men’s Basketball team and received a coach’s award. He also volunteered his time to Frederick Douglass Elementary School’s head start program and at the Henry & William Evans Home for Children in Winchester.
Atkins is the head U16 girls’ coach for the Grand Saconnex Lions in Geneva, Switzerland. As head coach, he teaches fundamental skills training to the team as well as weekly practices and coaches games. For the 2021-2022 season, Atkins led the team to the National Final Four with the team finishing in the fourth spot after a tough playoff series run.
Atkins is also the owner and operator of Basketball Academy of Excellence and Wired Integration Zambia. Basketball Academy of Excellence identifies talented basketball players in the United States, Europe and Africa and provides them rigorous training sessions, mentorship, and life skills training, which prepares them for opportunities within their home countries and abroad. Through the academy, he has helped several South African, Zambian, and Zimbabwean students obtain scholarships to high schools and universities in the United States and Asia. In addition, Atkins shepherded eight Zambians to the NBA’s exclusive Basketball Without Borders annual camp in South Africa.
Throughout his career, Atkins has also worked on teams that have helped design and facilitate a basketball league for high school students in Durban, provided capacity building services for 2,000 young women in Lesotho, implemented a life skills mentoring and training program for more than 50,000 participants in Zambia, and assisted in the launch of Project Knapsack (a pen-pal exchange between students in the United States and Zambia), which is owned by Porcha Dodson ’02. After the launch, he became the cultural liaison for three years. Now Atkins is a charter board member for the Global Youth Initiatives for Transformation.
Some of Atkins’ most rewarding experiences in his career are listed above. He has successfully changed the lives of children in Africa for the better by helping them earn scholarships to international schools, implementing life skills programs in their countries or building computer labs, meeting areas and safe spaces for them.
Atkins’ Shenandoah education prepared him for his career by teaching him how to learn. “During my time at SU, I was fortunate enough to get a chance to be a member of the school newspaper staff, involved in the rebuild of WSUR, and be on the ground floor at the commencement of WCTV,” said Atkins. “Being a part of the communication department and these projects helped me to build technical and analytical skills that have been instrumental in my professional life.” He also learned how to be a global citizen at Shenandoah, which has become a staple in his professional life, living on three continents and in more than ten countries.
Atkins’ advice to students is: “Soak up every bit of knowledge from every source you can, weed out the bad information and keep pushing! Read and understand the field of communications, know what or how you can be an asset to whatever your career path may be. Get subscriptions to publications or online content that will keep you informed of the changes and advancements. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY!!!”