Today is the first day of college for Meredith "Mimi" Kol-Balfour.
The graduate of Minneapolis Southwest High School will attend Barnard College virtually, beginning her first coursework in a 4+1 program that allows students to earn a bachelor's degree from Barnard College and a master's degree from its New York neighbor, Columbia University.
She is majoring in Social Science, Economic Research and Policy with the career goal of becoming a data analyst capable of leading "powerful, creative and equitable teams that serve our most underrepresented populations."
Her aspiration is for a fairer world for all.
The desire is evident in the actions she's put forth in Minneapolis so far and in the application essay she wrote for the inaugural George Floyd Legacy Scholarship.
Mimi was awarded the first $5,000 scholarship that the team plans to give annually in memory of Floyd, who died on Memorial Day while in police custody. The team announced an endowment for the scholarship in June.
Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf, General Manager Rick Spielman, linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr and running backs Alexander Mattison and Ameer Abdullah joined a recent video call with Mimi to congratulate her and wish her well.
"Mimi, great to see you. Just seeing you is putting a smile on my face, so I just want to congratulate you," Wilf said. "I know that you're going to serve this scholarship proud."
"We look forward to following your studies," Wilf added. "You represent so much hope for all of us to continue to support this important endeavor to make sure that we live in a fair and just world."
The Vikings Social Justice Committee, which was formed in 2018, has expanded efforts since Floyd's death. That includes a commitment of $5 million by the Wilf family to organizations that work for social justice.
The Social Justice Committee is focusing its efforts in three initial areas: 1) urging citizens to use their right to vote and increasing voter education and registration; 2) supporting the adoption of impactful educational curriculum on racism and Black history; and 3) advocating for law enforcement and criminal justice reform.
"Mimi, congrats from all of us," Spielman said. "Our Social Justice Committee is driven by the players with the support of our ownership, not only financially, but supporting the players on their platform and giving them an opportunity to go out and make change, which is so desperately needed in this country today. After the killing of George Floyd, we all got together, we thought it was very important for our organization to create this legacy scholarship and honor his name. This scholarship will go on and on forever.
"I got an opportunity to read [your essay] and was just blown away by everything you have accomplished and want to accomplish," Spielman added. "With everything you stated in that, I can tell how driven you are as a person and how how important it is that you think we need to make change. Young people like you out there are our future leaders of this country, and we want to be there to support you and give you every opportunity to do that."
Players offered their congratulations and words of inspiration, vowing to stay connected and supportive on Mimi's journey.
"You've earned it and have done everything thus far to put you in this position," Kendricks said. "You're on the right path right now. What I urge you to do is find strength in numbers, find people that challenge you, find people that are going to push you in ways that you can't push yourself, develop your mind a little more and get the alternative point of view as well. The more you surround yourself with people who are going to challenge you, the further you'll get."
Mattison added: "We're blessed to be in a position where we can inspire others, but I just want to say thank you for being an inspiration to someone like myself who was able to draw some inspiration from hearing your story and all that you have accomplished and wish to accomplish. I just want to wish you the best of luck as you go forward and I know that we'll be seeing a lot of you and hearing about all of the great things you accomplish."
Abdullah encouraged Mimi to "relish in this accomplishment" and shared his favorite quote.
"I know a lot of things that you're setting out to do in life can be tough at times. Sometimes you may be down, but I just wanted to leave you with my favorite quote, I always say this, 'Genius is persistence in disguise.' So the people we see in history as geniuses are people who never gave up," Abdullah said. "You're a leader, and I want you to continue to lead your classmates and the future communities that you will serve and to stay persistent."
Mimi confessed to the players that she's "not the sports person, but my little sister is very into sports" before inviting her sister to join her in the session.
Kendricks invited Mimi and her sister to attend a Vikings game once they are again open to fans, and Barr offered to provide restaurant tips for when Mimi goes to New York.
Until in-person classes resume, Mimi will study virtually, participating in Intro to Economic Reasoning; Intro to African Studies; African Dance; Girl Talk: Femininity and Language; and Big Problems: A Three-Course Lecture.
"I wanted to say thank you to you guys. It's definitely helped me this year. I didn't have to take out any loans for the first year of school, which is really dope," Mimi said. "Plus, it's amazing to be recognized and to have that push forward to keep doing what you've been doing and to know that you're on the right path."