Jack Voelker All Latitudes Lacrosse: Our 2024 Scholarship Winner

Our top Build a Better Future Scholarship winner for 2024 was Jack Voelker. Being the top winner means that he also received a $5,000 grant to further the work of his project in addition to a $10,000 college scholarship. 

In Jack’s version of building a better future, he started with a simple observation while visiting Croatia. He writes, 

“I am a dual Croatian-American citizen, and my family and I regularly go there to visit relatives. Being an avid lacrosse player, I went to a local scrimmage. This would have been the end of my experience but for one observation that led to one question that led to a mission: I noticed that as each player ran off the field, he would hand the substitute his sweaty helmet to wear. This repeated several times. I asked a player on the sideline if his teammates had forgotten their helmets. He said no—they didn’t have enough for everyone because they were expensive. My mind flashed to the new helmets we received every year for our club team and piles of perfectly good “last year’s” helmets collecting dust in garages all over Long Island. The next year, I returned with a dozen donated helmets and was met with deep appreciation. In subsequent summers, I would bring as much donated equipment as I could. Word spread through the small international lacrosse community about the American kid helping in Croatia, and other developing programs reached out. My response was to found All Latitudes Lacrosse (ALL), a nonprofit dedicated to growing the sport globally.”

His love for the game and for the people ran deep, so he knew he needed to make a difference. Once he made the initial jump to donating supplies he was able to connect with more and more people and organizations to help him further his project. 

“I have created All Latitudes Lacrosse, to connect donated lacrosse equipment from my community on Long Island with developing programs around the world. Here in the United States, most equipment gets discarded after the purchaser no longer needs it. Thus, the solution to inaccessibility to equipment around the world was connecting the equipment that is outgrown or no longer used here, with where it is needed. However, doing so was difficult, as simply shipping the equipment is expensive. The biggest challenge was finding low-cost or even free ways to get 2 teams’ worth of gear to each of the programs that I helped. Therefore, I had to “get creative.” In one case, I partnered with a safari company headquartered in New York City to get the equipment to Nairobi.”

On top of donating equipment and supplies to these communities across the globe, Jack has also been able to create connections with the players and get to know them even better. He told us about his experience, 

“The project was effective in its ability to reach such a wide variety of programs around the world. For example, at the 2018 World Lacrosse Championship in Netanya, Israel, I connected donated lacrosse equipment from my community with a local youth program. While there, I ran a clinic, in which I taught the local children how to play lacrosse. Despite a language barrier, I experienced a deep connection with these children through the sport. In 2022, I connected donated equipment with a youth program in Ghana. During the Wildfire Lacrosse Festival (a celebration of the inauguration of this lacrosse program), I spoke with the children via video call. I spoke about my experiences, balancing school with sports, and how sports can make you a better student. Again, I was able to see firsthand the power of sports in bringing people together and building relationships.”

As for the grant money, Jack has big dreams as well. He was chatting with a friend about the challenges that come with playing lacrosse and it gave him a great idea on how he can expand to help even more students to play. He writes, 

“We spoke about our individual experiences in the international lacrosse community, and what the biggest challenges are for the growth of the sport. He told me about one of the biggest struggles that his community faces. Throughout the course of any given month, girls are unable to attend school or participate in sports for about a week due to their menstrual cycle. This means that for 25% of the time, girls have to stay home. As a result, it is difficult to increase participation for girls in sports – especially a sport like lacrosse which already faces its own challenges.”

“Therefore, I would like to use the grant to purchase and send period underwear. I would like to approach the company Thinx and work out an agreement. For example, I would ask them if it would be possible that for every one item that I purchase, they would be willing to donate one or two. I have done something similar for the boy’s lacrosse program. I started a “Cups for Kenya” equipment drive. I reached out to Shock Doctor and asked them for a donation. I purchased 50 protective cups and they donated another 100 cups. It is an overlooked but critical piece of equipment for players. Access to this product for women in communities like Reagan’s would drastically improve the quality of life for these girls by allowing them to receive a more complete education, as well as participate in sports.”

We are so excited to see where All Latitutes Lacrosse goes in the future and we are so proud to have Jack as our 2024 top scholarship recipient!