By Anthony Bui
Excite All Stars was created in order to fill a great community need following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Co-founders Gerald and Penny Marquez Williams wanted to provide a refuge for young people while their parents were rebuilding. There were a lot of blood, sweat, and tears shed in order to get this organization off the ground, but the great demand for what they were doing showed, as the number of children they were serving doubled every year for the first four years and continues to rise, even in 2022, with numbers predicted to be in the thousands.
Excite All Stars looks to provide the community with a 360-degree support system. They do this by “providing a stable support system; one-of-a-kind All Star experiences in academics, the arts, and athletics, and trail blazing thinking so that kids recognize their own power to envision new possibilities and be the change.” Their year-round services are in place to ensure that children have the opportunity to learn throughout their lives with after-school and Saturday programs as well as summer camps. Besides a minimal cost for summer camp, these programs are of no cost to families.
Both Gerald and Penny share an immense pride in this organization, especially over the Excite All Stars ambassadors. These are seven seniors who have gone through this organization as campers before going into the leadership academy in order to better prepare themselves to work for Excite in different capacities. These young adults understand first-hand the needs of the community and have made it a priority to fulfill these needs and give their time to the organization that has helped them so much growing up. It’s just part of the culture there in order to help create leaders who are community service oriented, civic minded, and always looking for ways to give back. Penny expresses the great joy it brings as she has been with these kids since they were six. Now, they are college bound with full scholarships. They are driven and accomplished athletes. They are even entrepreneurs with their own businesses. Most importantly, they are leaders in their own communities, providing younger children with someone they can rely on and look up to.
Excite All Stars turns 15 in 2022, and in those 15 years, they have done so much for the community. There are so many things that can be done in order to help sustain this organization, whether it be donations of time, money, or attention in order to ensure they are able to have an impact for more years to come. One unique and fun way the community can give to this organization is by renting out their 360-degree photo booth. This is run by the Excite ambassadors and is part of the ambassador entrepreneurship program which gives them experience running a business. They bring the machine to events and help work and manage it, and all of the proceeds of the sales go towards Excite All Stars’ mission of providing children with a 360-degree support system.
For Gerald and Penny, they are really grateful and humbled to be able to be a part of this amazing journey, work with these families and children for the past 15 years, and to be there for them when they need it the most. They are looking forward to what the future has in store for their young people and the opportunities they will be able to provide for the next 15 years.