Playing basketball changed Batouly Camara’s life forever when she was a child. That’s why Batouly founded W.A.K.E. (@w_a_k_e__), which stands for Women and Kids Empowerment, an organization that hosts basketball camps in New York City and Guinea, and whose goal is to empower girls and introduce them to new opportunities.
Growing up, Batouly’s mother disapproved of her passion for basketball and pushed her to prioritize her academics over her athletic achievements. “As a first-generation [immigrant], my mom only believed that the route to success was through education,” she tells In The Know. “My older brother was my biggest advocate. My brother said, ‘Mom, she has an opportunity to go to an elite boarding school and I hope that your fear of the unknown wouldn’t stop her from missing out on this opportunity.’”
Eventually, Batouly was able to convince her mom that athletic and academic success are not mutually exclusive. She began attending Blair Academy, where she played on the basketball team and excelled academically. After graduating from Blair, Batouly attended the University of Connecticut, then spent 8 months playing basketball professionally in Spain.
“I was the first player in Spain to wear a hijab and to cover, and that was tough in itself,” she tells In The Know. “But I would say it was such a special opportunity as a Muslim woman, playing a sport, to have young girls say, ‘You gave me the confidence to be myself, to feel seen, and feel worthy and to feel heard.’”
These days, Batouly is a basketball coach and college counselor at Blair Academy, as well as the founder and CEO of W.A.K.E. Her goal, both at Blair and at W.A.K.E., is to empower girls through sports.
Batouly started W.A.K.E. in 2017 after a trip to Guinea. In Guinea, Batouly explains, “We worked to educate, equip, and empower young girls through sport education and social entrepreneurship skills.” But Batouly realized that, despite her best efforts, the children in Guinea simply didn’t have access to the resources they needed to succeed. “It felt like it was so irresponsible of me to instill hope in young girls and not give them the resources, the opportunities, or the access for their dreams,” she recalls.
She founded W.A.K.E. in order to work towards providing girls with the resources for success, both on and off the court. “We have speaker series, we have workshops,” Batouly explains. “Education and athletics are the forefront of really providing a strong foundation and base for our kids to be successful.”
She tells In The Know that basketball is about much more than athleticism. “I wanted to start Women and Kids Empowerment after my experiences with basketball,” she explains. “At a young age, I loved the game for sisterhood, for support, and for the fun that it brought me.”
Batouly hopes that her work at Blair Academy and with W.A.K.E. will help kids become their best selves. “I’m extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of young people’s lives through W.A.K.E. and being at Blair Academy as a college counselor and girls’ basketball coach,” she explains. “And I believe that the world that I serve is to be able to create these experiences and these spaces where they empower themselves and they gain the tools necessary to be their greatest selves through education and through sport.”
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