High school students from southern Virginia are racing toward bright futures with the help of a STEM-focused nonprofit honoring the memory of a NASCAR legend.
The Wendell Scott Foundation is named after the first African American race car driver to win the Grand National, NASCAR’s highest level, and to be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Wendell Scott was a native of Danville, Virginia, where his grandson Warrick has established the Wendell Scott Foundation to help area youth break their own barriers and achieve success.
The nonprofit aims to address racial disparities through educational attainment. Programs include Camp Cultivation, a summer STEM camp introducing students to higher education, along with mentoring and cultural enrichment.
“We want to level the playing field for students that find themselves in at-risk situations,” Warrick Scott said. “We are using my grandfather’s legacy to empower youth and push them in a direction rooted towards education.”
For students enrolled in Camp Cultivation, a recent day at the Richmond Raceway proved to be more than the thrill of watching NASCAR drivers maneuver high speed turns as engines roared.
They met NASCAR drivers and practiced iRacing on the same Sim Seats simulators as the pros. Touring the garages, Warrick recalled how Wendell Scott built and maintained his own tools and cars because he never had a sponsor during his career.
“Wendell Scott was a savant in many ways,” Warrick Scott said. “We use that ingenuity that he brought to the table with students. They get to experience iRacing and the physics that go behind iRacing and how they can apply it into secondary opportunities for education like colleges and universities, community colleges, things of that nature.”
Chinique Scott, executive director of the foundation, said exposure to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math can be life changing.
“Everything they see and touch is influenced by STEM,” she said. “It’s cutting edge, and it’s going to lead us into the future. And it’s important that the youth in Danville are exposed to that.”
Williams is a financial supporter of the nonprofit and has operations near Danville, the first point of delivery for the Transco pipeline.
“At Williams, we’re always looking for opportunities to give back to the communities where we operate,” said Jay McChesney, community and project outreach specialist. “The Wendell Scott Foundation is doing such great work and we are honored to participate in and give back in a small way to this critical community.”
Warrick Scott said the past and the future intersect in Danville, where chasing dreams and hard work break down barriers to the finish line.
“This is where I’m from,” he said. “This is my hometown. And growing up here and knowing what the experience is like, it’s important for us to use my grandfather’s legacy to open up more doors for youth. They’re able to find the hero in themselves.”