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How this Georgetown basketball alum empowers girls in her home country

Kike Rafiu (center) started Girls Rise Up for the girls from her home country of Nigeria who wanted to play sports but didn’t have the equipment needed to play.

When Kike Rafiu started playing basketball in her home country of Nigeria, she struggled to find two things: a good pair of shoes and encouragement to continue the sport.

So, after moving to the United States during high school and earning a scholarship to play at Georgetown, Rafiu created Girls Rise Up to ensure girls from her home did not have to face the same challenges she did.

The idea for the organization came in 2010 as Rafiu packed for college. She realized she had acquired more basketball and running shoes than she could have imagined just a few years earlier, and she knew she would receive even more gear at Georgetown.  

“That’s when I was like ‘I don’t need 10 pairs of sneakers because I can’t wear all of them,’” Rafiu says. So instead of taking all her shoes to college, she used them to start a collection that she took back to Nigeria and distributed to girls who were interested in basketball and other sports.

That grew into an organization that focuses on using youth sports as a platform to unlock the next generation of female leaders. In the last six years, Rafiu has expanded Girls Rise Up to include a three-day workshop in leadership and sports during the summer in Nigeria. And in addition to shoes, the program now also provides local girls with sports equipment such as basketballs and apparel.

“There’s always this rhetoric that girls don’t want to play sports,” Rafiu says. “I’ve always challenged that we want to play sports, but the avenue is just not there for us to participate. The playing ground is not welcoming. That’s why you don’t see us. But now that’s starting to change.”

On top of managing the nonprofit, the former student-athlete now works fulltime as the director of operations for Binghamton University women’s basketball. She says the two roles motivate her to become a better leader and uplift rising leaders.

“(Girls Rise Up) means that girls will never stop growing,” Rafiu says. “We’re going to keep fighting for our rights. We’re going to keep pushing to achieve and become the best that we can in the world, not just in our community.”

After the Game

We are proud of all our former student-athletes, and in recognition of their accomplishments after their playing days, we launched NCAA After the Game.  Our goal is simple: to celebrate the former student-athlete.

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