Social Innovation Fellows: Billy Watterson '15

"I use wrestling to keep at-risk urban youth enrolled, engaged and constantly learning the skills and attitudes necessary to thrive."


Meet Billy

Hometown: Pound Ridge, NY
Concentration: History
LinkedIn 

When I was in middle school, I struggled. I didn’t face quite the same obstacles that many Providence youth face, but I was by no means succeeding. I was receiving Cs in school, was struggling socially, wasn’t participating in groups or activities, and was generally unconfident and unhappy. My parents had recently been divorced, I was struggling with severe ADD and ADHD, leading my parents to put me on Adderall, and I was falling in with a bad group of kids. Then I found wrestling and it changed my life. 

It was my coaches’ constant encouragement that made me work hard in wrestling and that made me ultimately succeed. When I finally did succeed it was an epiphany for me: it had been just me facing one other wrestler on the mat and I had succeeded on my own. It proved to me that if I worked hard enough at something I could succeed. I took that self-confidence with me into the rest of my life. I became goal-oriented, driven, and disciplined. Within a year I was off my ADD medicine, getting A’s in school, succeeding on the mat, making new friends, and had generally become a confident, happy person assured of my success and abilities. It is that same goal-oriented, hardworking, disciplined personality that has taken me to Brown University, made me an Academic All American, and which still today assures me that I will succeed at whatever I try to do. 

This transformation, however, is not unique to me. I have been coaching ever since my freshman year of high school and countless times I have seen the belief and hard work that wrestling can instill in the unmotivated, the struggling, and those who most need it most. That is why it has become my mission to bring this same transformation to as many Providence youth as I possibly can. To me, wrestling represents a solution to the pervasive lack of ambition I saw in my time volunteering in Providence schools. Wrestling is a way to surround Providence youth with coaches/mentors who believe in them and who provide great examples for them to follow, as well as to provide many of them with an opportunity to succeed and realize their own competence and ability.

Beat the Streets Providence

Providence, RI 
Website - Facebook - Twitter 

This past summer I founded a nonprofit organization called Beat the Streets Providence. Our mission is to establish a wrestling team in every school in Providence and in doing so to create a positive after school environment that can begin to address the needs of Providence youth. Most public middle schools in Providence have no school-sponsored team sports, a sad reality that BTSP recognizes as a wasted opportunity for the development of a thriving afterschool community. In establishing wrestling programs we hope to provide students with a positive alternative community to the streets—a community founded on hard work, discipline, self-worth, teamwork, and camaraderie that productively nurtures the competitive spirit in a rule-bound environment.We see these programs as a crucial part of the creation of a larger community that leaves no one without access to the opportunities to explore and realize their potential, both inside and outside the classroom. In doing so we believe that we can ensure no student is left behind, that all students graduate, and all students can find their pathway to success. This summer I will work to establish a summer camp for Providence youth which combines wrestling and continued learning, while at the same time preparing to expand into three more schools in the coming year.