Panthers Star Rookie Ikem Ekwonu Connects With Charlotte Middle School Students

Star Rookie Ickey Ekwonu and Panthers team up with Honeywell and Digi-Bridge To Host Futureshaper Sustainability Challenge.

CHARLOTTE, N. C. — Panthers players had the day off to rest, but as WCCB’s Kelli Bartik reports, that didn’t stop Carolina’s first round draft pick Ikem Ekwonu from working in the community.

As a kid, Charlotte native Ickey Ekwonu grew up cheering for the Panthers inside Bank Of America Stadium. Now, Carolina’s star rookie is encouraging local middle school students as they try to make an impact off the field on game days.

Ekwonu believes the future of Charlotte is in good hands, especially after spending the evening with this group of young innovators. “Very impressed. These kids definitely taught me a couple of things that I had no idea about when it comes to plastic, different kinds of plastic, food waste, composting, you name it. So very impressed with these kids today.”

Ekwonu was a guest judge for the Futureshaper Sustainability Challenge, which took place at the state of the art, Honeywell Headquarters in uptown Charlotte.

Honeywell partnered with Digi-Bridge and the Carolina Panthers to run the event where middle school students from Charlotte worked with Digi-Bridge teachers and Honeywell mentors to help
improve Panthers’ gameday recycling operations.

The starting left tackle says he was blown away. “All of these kids came out, had great presentations, slide shows, models, 3D printed stuff, they just went all out. It was a fun experience.”

In the end, the team from Thomasboro Academy took the top prize, a five thousand dollar grant from Honeywell, with their Panthers “Packseez for your Snackeez” innovation. A reusable food container that would reward Panthers fans at Bank Of America Stadium for using it on game days.

Digi-Bridge CEO Alyssa Sharpe couldn’t help but be excited after watching all of the presentations. “Our kids are so innovative, once they are provided opportunity and access, they have the tools to dream the future. And they are the future. So investing in them now, when they’re in middle school is only going to set them up for a lifetime journey of success.”

And the proud Charlotte native, Ekwonu, agreed. “Definitely, if this is the future right here, we’re definitely in great hands.”

In addition to the grant from Honeywell, the team from Thomasboro Academy will be awarded and recognized during halftime of the Panthers vs. Broncos game on November 27th.