X-Men football alumni provide LIFT with bursary

The LIFT – Living Intentionally, Fighting Tenaciously – bursary is the brainchild of Kwame Osei (left), Akeem Foster, Cauchy Muamba, Henoc Muamba, Kwasi Nkansah and Kelvin Muamba, pictured her at Cauchy’s wedding. The inaugural award will be presented later this month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The LIFT – Living Intentionally, Fighting Tenaciously – bursary is the brainchild of Kwame Osei (left), Akeem Foster, Cauchy Muamba, Henoc Muamba, Kwasi Nkansah and Kelvin Muamba, pictured her at Cauchy’s wedding. The inaugural award will be presented later this month. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Group focused on leaving legacy at alma mater

By Corey LeBlanc

A group of former X-Men football players – and proud StFX alumni – are constantly looking for ways in which to give back to their beloved alma mater.

"We are always looking for a way to leave a legacy," Henoc Muamba, who parlayed his stellar stint as a linebacker in White and Blue into a continuing professional career on the gridiron, says.

The most recent idea on how they could do just that came from his friend and X teammate Kwame Osei.

"I needed to do something – and I wanted it to be sustainable," the dynamic offensive threat with the X-Men says of his reaction to "everything going on" in recent months – both in the United States and Canada – related to what he describes as "social injustice."

With that 'need' identified, Kwame turned his attention to helping Black people, especially young ones, "do great things in the future."

After considering creating a charity or fund, he pinpointed the idea of establishing a bursary for students of African descent with financial need.

Having decided on the 'what,' Kwame then focused on the 'where,' which was an easy choice, considering his deep connection with StFX.

"My time there has played a huge role in my life," he says.

Kwame remembers being a "lost boy," when he arrived on the campus as a freshman, one that was "angry at the world."

"I had no idea how to have love, in the sense of caring about people," he says.

While in Antigonish, Kwame adds he discovered "pure love" – both at StFX and in the broader community.

"I will never forget that," he notes.

Some of that 'pure love' he felt came from a group of young men – X-Men teammates – who also embraced their Xaverian experience.

"They are my brothers, and I wanted to include them," Kwame says, describing it as a "great opportunity for us to do something together."

Along with Kwame and Henoc, Kwasi Nkansah, Cauchy Muamba and Akeem Foster – also former X-Men teammates and university roommates – joined the effort. Kelvin Muamba – Henoc and Cauchy's brother – also came on board.

"We, as a group, have been trying to come up with ways to help the next generation and have a positive impact on student-athletes," Kwasi says in a text exchange.

He adds he is "happy to be part of a bursary that reflects the close-knit community at StFX."

Cauchy agrees. "We have always looked for ways to give back," he says.

Kwame, Akeem, Cauchy, Kwasi and Henoc were instrumental in starting the X Athletes for Charity event during their time as student-athletes

Cauchy notes that started when they were X students; the same group of friends was also key contributors to the launch of X Athletes for Charity – an annual celebration hosted by StFX student-athletes, where young fans have the opportunity to have fun and play games with student-athletes. Proceeds from the yearly event benefit local charities.

"This is another way that we can build on that legacy; show how much StFX, and everything we experienced there, means to us," he adds.

Although he is not a StFX Alumnus, Kelvin describes himself as a "product of my environment," having a deep connection to the university because of his brotherly relationship – biological and otherwise – with the group. He has seen how the Xaverian experience has affected their lives.

"It was easy for me to decide that I wanted to be part of this," he says of the creation of the bursary.

Providing a LIFT

With the bursary team – of sorts – assembled, they started to tackle the nuts and bolts involved with establishing the annual award, including creating the process and criteria involved.

Called LIFT – Living Intentionally, Fighting Tenaciously – the $3,000 will be presented to a Black student "who demonstrates financial need and [commitment to] community service."

Applicants are required to write an essay outlining their community involvement and "how they are making a difference."

"They must show how they are contributing to their community – whether it is at home or StFX," Kwame says of that aspect of the process.

While reflecting on how those LIFT monies will help recipients, Cauchy remembers spending one of his first days on campus each year in the library, where he sifted through – and applied for – scholarships and bursaries.

"We have been in their shoes," Henoc says of facing financial challenges while in university.

Kwame adds accessing such financial boosts "saved me in so many ways."

He notes not having to "worry about finances" made it much easier – as a student-athlete – to focus on academics and athletics.

"It was so important to not have to deal with that stress," Kwame says.

Without that aid, he adds he is unsure if he would have been able to complete two degrees.

"LIFT is a way for us to pay it forward," Kwame says.

The student-athletes honed their 'giving back' skills while at StFX 

Just the start

One StFX student will receive the inaugural LIFT bursary later this month, but Kwame says the goal is to help as many Xaverians as possible. He suggests there are "enough people out there" to help support an effort to award 10 or more bursaries each February.

"Let's make a difference," he offers, in making a pitch – of sorts – for support, including from X alumni of African descent to do their part for the newly-established initiative.

Although it is in its infancy, Kwame says there has been a "great response" to the initiative.

"There has been so much positive feedback," he adds.

Describing the anticipated effect of LIFT as "impactful," Kelvin – a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo – is hopeful something similar can be implemented at other universities across Canada.

"We want this to become contagious," he says.

Noting they haven't returned to the StFX campus for more than a decade, Cauchy says – once life returns to 'normal,' when it comes to the COVID-19 global pandemic – the group hopes to visit Antigonish sooner rather than later.

"It will be great to see what has changed; catch up with everyone that we have great connections with," he notes.

Cauchy floats the idea of meeting – and making the bursary presentation – to LIFT recipients.

"For us, it is about more than giving out money," he says of that possible experience.

To offer support to LIFT, visit stfx.ca/give – indicate LIFT Bursary in the 'other designation' category, or contact Cathy Fraser with StFX Development at cfraser@stfx.ca or (902) 867-5017.