Javonn Islar is making great strides uniting his community of Brownsville around his passion for sports. Just last month, the 18-year-old won an ESPY Award (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly), an accolade currently presented by the American broadcast television network ABC to recognize individual and team athletic achievement.
The teenager is setting high standards for his teammates.
After moving to Brownsville when he was just 11, Javonn quickly noticed the high incidents of violence in his community. As a result, he began his journey to find safety and comfort in sports, choosing wrestling and basketball, which eventually led him to PeacePlayers Brooklyn.
"The role that basketball and sports had in my life has been beyond what I expected," said Islar. "It's been an outlet and get away from things going bad around the world and a way to meet other people in different countries through PeacePlayers who love the game as much as I do."
PeacePlayers works to unite divided communities through the power of sport and to develop young leaders who are working toward a more peaceful and equitable future.
With the group's assistance, Javonn has built relationships with his peers from across the nation. He's led the way in welcoming new team members from rival housing developments. In a neighborhood where you risk harm by hanging out with someone from rival housing developments, Javonn's basketball team is the only one that unites youth from different houses on to one team.
On June 21, Javonn was named one of the seven recipients of this year's Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award during the 2020 ESPYS broadcast. The ESPYS award recognizes high school and collegiate youth using sports as a way to support community development. It is part of ESPN's Sports Humanitarian Awards that honors the efforts the sports community makes to create a positive difference.
"I feel great about winning the Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award at the ESPYS, and I'm honored to even have a chance to win it, to be honest," said Javonn. "I feel like this award will help PeacePlayers be more known in Brooklyn and how they use basketball to bring together kids from different housing projects in Brownsville. There's so much going on in the world right now and we need unity."
As a testament to Javonn's unfettered commitment to building community, he was also awarded a $10,000 grant to attend college in the fall. He plans to attend the Borough of Manhattan Community College as a Computer Science major.
With more education, Islar hopes to continue creating a more peaceful and equitable world for his peers and any future PeacePlayers.
"My plan is to stay involved with PeacePlayers as I get older and help with coaching," he said.
"I already volunteer as a mentor to younger kids in the program, and it's been one of my favorite parts of being a PeacePlayer. But I hope I can continue to grow as a leader and travel the world."