Former ASU forward Zylan Cheatham knows what it means to grow up in South Phoenix. He also knows what it means to make his dream come true. It’s all about grit and not giving up. Cheatham went from Arizona State playing for Bobby Hurley to undrafted in 2019 but signed a two-way contract by the Pelicans and made his NBA debut on November 16th, 2019. From South Mountain High School to the NBA. A tale of pushing past adversity. (Currently not on an NBA roster)
Cheatham is living proof that hard work can pay off, and now he is giving back to the community that helped raise him. Paying it forward to his community has always been a goal of his, and now with the help and direct arm to ASU, he can do just that with his foundation, School Projects, and the Zylan Cheatham Impact Fund. The mission for the former Devil is to give students in south Phoenix the same opportunities that other schools have.
“When I played sports in high school, we would travel to other schools, and you could just see the difference in how the classrooms looked, the opportunities, the scholarships the kids were getting … looking back at it it’s night and day the difference between the impoverished schools, the environments, that’s where School Projects comes in,” Zylan told Sports360AZ.
So what does School Projects do? Well, anything really. They want to support and helps the students and student-athletes the best they can. It’s about setting these young people up for success and giving them the same opportunities that others have at schools in other districts. That means giving them supplies, helping them in the classroom, out of the classroom, and especially in this COVID-19 era where everything is online, that means even laptops.
This doesn’t stop in south Phoenix; the plan is to grow this to the whole valley, but Zylan wants to start where he grew up, and that is at South Mountain high school. The former Jaguar doesn’t want to stop there. He has big plans to help the underprivileged and with the help of ASU and Watts College, he is able to do just that. Watts College is committed to helping Zylan support the community with the Zylan Cheatham Community Impact fund. Z has committed to giving back not only his time but also some of his earnings. With the Watts College partnership, they will use those funds to help support, help change the south Phoenix commuting by providing money for the school systems for scholarships and everything in between.
“We are a very hands-on college. We are focused on doing good work addressing challenges in the community, and we take on the most difficult situations.” Dean Koppell with ASU’s Watts College told Sports360AZ.
This is a special partnership because it isn’t just a one-time event or once a year giving, this is continual giving and being there for the south Phoenix community. The arm from Z to ASU to south Phoenix is extended, and the hand is open. This is something Zylan and Watts College both take pride in,
“This is a really great example of why it is so important to embrace the philosophy that ASU has to emphasize inclusion over exclusion,” Dean Koppell expressed.
“You spend two seconds with him (Zylan), and he’s obviously a super smart guy. He’s going to do great things whether it’s on the court or not. You need to give people an opportunity to succeed … There are all kinds of people capable of doing so much…We need to create avenues for all of them to have opportunities… I am proud that our ASU athletics cultivates this kind of public-spiritedness in student-athletes. We have worked with the terrific team at Sun Devil Athletics to support their efforts to create a sense of public service. We are proud that Zylan embodies that spirit,” Dean Koppell with a smile on his face admitted.
Zylan’s overall passion for helping to elevate the community in which he grew up by raising awareness, partnering with his former college, and using his resources to make a difference is inspiring and will change so many lives. This is what it’s all about.