A Springfield native and former Ohio State quarterback is giving back to local students through a foundation that is focused on providing mentorship, elite sports training and exposure to STEM.
Braxton Miller officially launched the foundation in his name last year and now is looking to open a facility in Vandalia that will serve as its home base. Miller along with members of his foundation spoke to Springfield community leaders on Monday about the programs they hope to offer.
The foundation aims to integrate several sports camps centered toward local athletes with programs focused on technology and science as well as providing mentorship opportunities to local elementary, middle school and high school students.
The $1.9 million facility that will be located on Frederick Pike in Vandalia will serve as a brick-in-mortar location for the foundation, with the goal of offering a variety of programming that lines up with the foundation’s emphasis not only on sports, but also providing pathways to further education and life skills.
But, the new facility is only a part of the foundation’s outreach as the nonprofit has been working with local middle school students in Springfield and Miller has been operating a football camp in Urbana.
“Being home and being able to kickstart it here is very important for me,” Miller said.
The foundation currently relies on a team of volunteers and the goal is to grow that base as well as the students that are being reached through STEM programming as well as different sports training programs.
“We also understand most kids don’t make it to the NFL, they don’t make it to the NBA. Education is really what unlocks the doors for their future,” said Lashonda Miller, the executive director of the foundation and Braxton’s aunt.
“We need to get these kids into STEM. The power of sports, the power of STEM and the power of mentoring is really the core focus of what we do and the why behind our passion,” said Lashonda, who has a background in electrical engineering and spent time in the private sector before making the transition to nonprofit work.
The foundation is working to set up programming and partner with other organizations in the STEM field to target students between the ages of 8 and 17. Active programs in Springfield include partnering with the organization Xtreme STEM to provide a pathway to robotics as well as prep students for competitions in that field.
Another program that the foundation is focused on relates to working with drone technology and participating in drone soccer, in which students work and design drones with the aim of placing an object through a hoop.
Miller’s foundation is working with others that aim to bring drone soccer to Ohio, in which student teams would compete with others across the state.
Future programing related to STEM fields include partnering with others to provide area students with training and exposure to coding, blockchain skills, 3D printing and game development.
The foundation also hopes to provide camp opportunities to the students it works with, including a 5-day one planned this summer that work include a trip to a local manufacturer as well as exposure to aviation technology.
There will also be an emphasis on sports programs that focus on areas such as football and basketball. The foundation will work upon Braxton’s existing football camps that have been hosted in the Columbus, Springfield, Urbana and Dayton areas.
The foundation hopes to start a coed flag football league that targets children between the ages of 5 and 14 as well as a AAU basketball league that would focus on boys in second to fifth grades.
What the slated facility in Vandalia will look like is still being discussed. An anonymous donor gave nine acres of property and $1 million to the foundation last year.
Lashonda said the foundation is also hoping to raise an additional $1.4 million, with some of that money covering the rest of the facility’s projected costs as well as going towards the foundation’s programming.
The project to create the facility will include renovations to an existing structure on the property and the construction phase is slated to start later this year and wrap up sometime in the first quarter of 2023.
The programming at the facility will be rolled out in phases and the first phase will be implemented in 2023.
The first phase may include professional level sports training equipment, a basket ball court that would also serve as space for STEM experiments and where students can work with technology such as drones.
Braxton said that the goal in the future is to open facilities, depending on donor support, in the Springfield and Columbus areas as well.
Braxton is also part of a group that is looking at purchasing the former Urbana University property with plans of turning that into a prep school.
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