A first round draft pick and Super Bowl Champion, Benjamin Watson is a true talent and an offensive force in the NFL. While in high school in South Carolina, Benjamin was a standout athlete. His talents afforded him a place on the Duke University football team and later with the University of Georgia. In his senior year, Benjamin was selected as an NCAA preseason All-American and an All-SEC selection at UGA. He was also named the Bulldogs’ offensive captain for the season and was honored as an All-SEC selection by numerous publications after a stellar season, capped off by touchdown receptions in both the SEC Championship game and the Capital One Bowl.
It is no surprise that Benjamin was a first round NFL draft selection. The New England Patriots knew he was a special talent and selected him as the 32nd overall pick. He has been a powerhouse in the NFL ever since. Known for his speed and astounding athletic ability, Benjamin is widely recognized for what is considered “the most amazing play of the entire 2005-2006 NFL season” – a remarkable run to deny a touchdown in a critical playoff game.
After six successful seasons with the Patriots, Benjamin landed with the Cleveland Browns where he continued to be a dominating force, leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. As an NFL veteran, Benjamin has been a key playmaker for teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and currently, the New Orleans Saints. With 547 receptions and over 6,000 yards in his career, Benjamin has been a model of consistency and talent through his 16 years in the league.
Benjamin’s passion for football mirrors his passion for giving back. Understanding just how blessed he is, Benjamin and his wife Kirsten established their foundation, One More. One More is a non-profit organization dedicated to impacting the lives of those in need by providing enrichment opportunities and promoting education through charitable initiatives and partnerships. Benjamin holds annual events such as The Big BENefit Christmas Toy Giveaway, Thanksgiving Turkey Drop, School Givebacks and much more. Benjamin also partners on numerous events and projects with the International Justice Mission, working to end sex trafficking.
In 2015 & 2017, the NFL recognized Benjamin for his incredible philanthropic efforts by naming him a Walter Payton Man of the Year Finalist. Benjamin also received the prestigious 2017 Bart Starr Award. Off the field accomplishments for Benjamin also include being cast in The American Bible Challenge, participating in the 14th Annual Super Bowl Gospel Fest, speaking at the Pentagon, Liberty University, SXSW and being named one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of 2014.
In 2015 Benjamin wrote several powerful essays on cultural topics; his most notable outlined his thoughts on racial tension in America and became an internet sensation, reaching over 44 million. This Facebook post was the catalyst for Benjamin to write his first book, Under Our Skin, which garnered critical acclaim and eventually led to the release of his highly anticipated second literary work, The New Dad’s Playbook.
Benjamin’s uncanny ability to objectively address controversial topics in such an eloquent manner has placed him on major TV networks, such as ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and the Dr. Phil Show to share his opinions. Benjamin has also spoken on current events at schools, churches, and conferences across the country.
Benjamin’s talents on and off the field, coupled with his down-to-earth personality, have paved the path to a very bright future post-NFL. In 2018, Benjamin announced he would be retiring after 15 seasons in the NFL, along with a surprise in-game touchdown celebration announcing that he and his wife are expanding their
family, expecting twins in spring of 2019. To only shock the world once more, Benjamin returned to the NFL for one final season. Joining the New England Patriots in 2019, Benjamin was able to give it all he's got and end that chapter of his life knowing he left it all on the field. In 2020, Benjamin announced he is officially retiring from the game of football.
With more than a decade of experience advocating for low- income, first-generation students and students of color, Kimberly Jones has established herself as a credible voice within policy circles in Washington, DC. Currently, Kimberly serves as the Executive Vice President at the Council for Opportunity in Education (“COE”). In this role, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the Council, including representation of students served by the Federal TRIO Programs (“TRIO”) before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of Education, and all government agencies; oversight of the program and professional development offerings for college access and success professionals; the organization’s fiscal policies and information technology; and the development and implementation of all print and digital communications of COE.
Prior to joining COE, Kimberly was an Associate in the Communications Practice Group at the law firm of Dow Lohnes, PLLC (now Cooley LLP), where she advised clients on a variety of broadcast and media law issues.
As a result of her expertise in the areas of higher education, congressional relations, and grassroots mobilization, Kimberly has been featured in publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education and has delivered remarks at convenings by Comcast, NAACP, LULAC, and other notable organizations. She also serves as an inaugural Advisory Committee member for the Association of Young Americans, which advocates for Americans aged 18 to 35.
Kimberly has served in leadership roles within various professional and civic organizations, including the Committee for Education Funding, of which she served as President; the National Bar Association, for which she chaired the Legislation Standing Committee; the Junior League of Washington, for which she was named Outstanding New Member in 2018; Women in Government Relations; and the Washington Government Relations Group.
Kimberly is a 2000 graduate of Yale University and a 2004 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center. In 1999, she was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar. In 2016, Kimberly was named one of the "40 Under 40 Nation's Best Advocates" by the National Bar Association and also received the organization’s Excellence in Activism Award. In 2018, she was selected for the Diversity Executive Leadership Program sponsored by ASAE, the American Society of Association Executives.
Paul L. Griffin, Jr.
For over 30 years, Paul’s work in education across the United States with school districts and his affiliation with community service and industry professional organizations, has connected him with key education and business leaders while experiencing the school and business climates of major cities.
In education, starting as a sales representative to his current role as Vice President, Strategic Urban Initiatives, Paul works with a team of colleagues to bring digital education solutions to administrators, superintendents and community stakeholders. He connects sales professionals and company executives with education leaders to produce win-win outcomes in education. As an experienced professional, his focus is to help Amplify lead the way in proving next generation curriculum and assessment.
Paul began his sales career working in the institutional foodservice industry and represented two leading food manufacturers, General Foods Corp. (now Kraft Foods) and Hunt Wesson Foods (now Conagra Foods) during his time in the industry. In 1989, he transitioned into the education industry accepting positions at Texas Southern University, The University of Texas Health Science Center, and Texas A&M University, before being recruited to join publishing giant, Houghton Mifflin Company.
After 22 years with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, he retired from the company in 2017, as Vice President of Strategic Relationships. In 2020, he joined Amplify Education, as Vice President, Strategic Urban Initiatives. Amplify is an education tech company with products and services that provide assessment and analytics for data-driven instruction and next generation digital curriculum.
Paul serves on the board of directors of the Desoto Economic Development Corporation. Previous board service with community service organizations such as the Neighborhood Centers, Inc., Acres Home Community Development Corporation, and Alpha Epsilon Boulé Education Foundation, Inc. He also served as an Advisory Board member of the National League Cities, Institute for Youth, Education and Families.
Paul enjoys life memberships in the following organizations: NAACP; Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., (serving as the 32nd International President--2005-2009); National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE).
Paul received a B.S. and M.A. degree from Houston’s HBCU, Texas Southern University. He and his wife Belinda reside in Desoto, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
Calvin Mackie is an award-winning mentor, a critically acclaimed author, an internationally renowned motivational speaker, and a successful entrepreneur. He is the older brother of actor Anthony Mackie, who plays Falcon in Marvel’s Avengers.
Through his travels and online mentoring presence, Mackie reaches millions of students and professionals annually. Dr. Mackie was appointed to the Louisiana Council on the Social Status of Black Boys and Black Men where he led the state’s effort to create policy and programs to positively impact the quality of life for black males and families in the state of Louisiana. Dr. Mackie founded STEM NOLA, which is a non-profit organization founded to expose, inspire and engage communities about the opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Robert Edison was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a graduate of Louisville Male High School. After earning an Associate Art’s degree from Southwestern Christian College in 1968 and enrolled in Oklahoma Christian College.
He has earned a B.A., degree, in Political Science from East Texas State University, a Master’s degree in Civic Affairs from the University of Dallas and a Second Master’s degree, in history from Texas A&M University-Commerce on a James Madison Memorial Fellowship. Mr. Edison worked for the Dallas Independent School District for 44 years and retired as the Director of Social Studies Instruction in 2017. While working at the Dallas ISD he served as the Curator of the African American Cultural Heritage Center, a district museum that was established as part of the 1975 desegregation order.
He spent a year working for the College of Charleston in South Carolina as Director of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. Edison serves as the president of the W.M. Dulaney Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and is a former Board Member for the Dallas NAACP Branch and continues to be a member of the NAACP National Branch.
In 2019 he was named A Distinguished Visiting Professor of American Studies on Race and Ethnicity at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, Oklahoma and teaches Introduction to African American Studies and the Philosophy of Race, course. He also co-teaches a class on Race, Class and Gender in the Honors Program. He will be assisting the University in the establishment of an African American history minor.
One of the highlights of his career was being selected as a Fulbright Teacher Scholar and spending six weeks in Egypt studying at the American University in Cairo. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and was a member of the charter line at ETSU now Texas A&M- Commerce. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the University in 1993.