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July 14, 2017

 

Alliyah Bacon and Tamika Catchings  

Alliyah Bacon (fourth from left) accepts a $10,000 check from WNBA legend Tamika Catchings (far right) during the Catch the Stars Scholar Athlete Reception. Alliyah beat out 50 other student-athletes to be named the 2017 Female Scholar Athlete. The scholarship program is through Catchings’ Catch the Stars Foundation. Below, Alliyah is filled with emotion after learning that she received a $10,000 scholarship.
 
 
 
Since
2004, WNBA legend Tamika Catchings has empowered students to set goals through
her Catch the Stars Foundation. In those 12 years, the future basketball hall
of famer has also recognized and honored graduating seniors for their athletic
leadership, community service and academic excellence with scholarships through
her foundation’s Scholar Athlete program.

 

This
year, Alliyah Bacon was one of those students.

 

Less
than two weeks before graduating from Arsenal Technical High School, Alliyah received
the Female Scholar Athlete Scholarship — a prize that awarded her $10,000. She was
chosen from more than 50 nominees.Alliyah Bacon and Tamika Catchings

 

“One of
(Alliyah’s) goals was to go to college and now she has that opportunity,” said Catchings,
“not just because of us, but because of her hard work and determination used to
put in that extra mile.”

 

When
Alliyah began playing volleyball competitively during her freshman year at Tech,
she was uncomfortably pushed toward becoming a vocal leader. It was an entirely
new role for Alliyah, who has autism and has struggled to effectively
communicate since she was a child.

 

“I
didn’t really picture myself as a leader until volleyball,” said Alliyah. “It
made me step outside of my comfort zone. It was a struggle at first, because I
had trouble communicating and I was doing something new.”

 

But she
took on the challenge and blossomed into an amazing student-athlete and leader.

 

Winning
the scholarship was exciting for both Alliyah and Catchings, who expressed
their admiration for the journey that each respectively has endured.

 

“She
(Catchings) is a really big inspiration to me because I struggle with my
autism, and to see her go through everything that she’s been through during her
time in the WNBA makes me feel like I can do anything,” said Alliyah.

 

When
Catchings was initially drafted to the Indiana Fever from the University of Tennessee
in 2001, she suffered an ACL tear that kept her off the basketball court for an
entire season. However, she didn’t spend that time sulking on the sidelines.
Instead, the basketball star — who had already overcome a childhood hearing
impairment that affects both ears and alters her speech — used that time off to
heal, rehab and engage with the Indianapolis community.

 

In 2002,
she used her passion for basketball to support children through basketball
camps. In 2004, Catchings and her sister, Tauja, created the non-profit Catch
the Stars Foundation to provide mentorship, fitness and basketball clinics, as
well as literacy programs for youths. The initial goal was to empower children in
her new hometown in Indianapolis, but has since expanded to help children in cities
throughout the U.S.

 

“It’s
cool to make an impact on people’s lives,” said Catchings. “Not only are we
finding opportunities for our young people, but we’re putting a smile on their
faces, too, and I think that’s most important.”

 

Aside
from continuing to play volleyball in college (at either Indiana Wesleyan or
Ivy Tech), Alliyah also received her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license while
at Arsenal Tech and plans to become a registered nurse after finishing her undergraduate
education.

 

Making the future brighter
for students just like Alliyah is what keeps the Catch the Stars Foundation
moving forward. And with plans to expand its outreach to more cities in the
future, Catchings hopes that she can support even more students’ dreams.