Student-Athletes

“Do it for the person next to you”

Husky gymnastics leader inspires young Black female athletes

As part of the 9% of Division I gymnasts who identify as Black, Amara Cunningham uses her unique position to encourage others.

“Gymnastics is a predominantly white sport,” explains Amara. “Inspiring young Black girls is big for me. I’m grateful for athletes like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas who have paved the way for Black athletes, but I think it’s also important to show the next generation a pathway like mine, where you can pursue collegiate gymnastics and a degree.”

As soon as Amara set foot on the UW’s campus she knew it was where she was meant to be.

“One of the biggest reasons I came to UW was because of the team atmosphere. Right away, I realized the team was one, as opposed to the individuality of the sport in high school,” describes Amara. “At UW we say, ‘Give your 100% every single day’ not just for yourself but for your teammates. I love that we’ve adopted a mentality that teaches you to do it for the person next to you, both in sports and in life.”

Coming from a talented family of athletes, Amara learned valuable life lessons from both her parents while growing up. Her mom, Chinazo, played Softball and her father, Everett, played Baseball — both at Northwestern.

“Both of my parents had a unique upbringing,” recalls Amara. “My dad grew up without many resources in Iowa, and my mom was born in Nigeria. Now, they are both successful leaders in their fields and making incredible efforts to improve the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. The fact that they were able to become scholarship Division I athletes — all without the same opportunities that I’ve had — motivated me to live up to those standards.”

Amara has an “all or nothing” approach to life. She commits herself fully to practice, training, school and life with a deep sense of responsibility not just for herself, but for her teammates and the young athletes who look up to her.

“Young Black girls come up to me at the end of meets, and I know that I’m their inspiration,” she reflects. “I think that’s what I’m here for now.”

Although Amara, who graduated last June with a degree in Nutrition, is a power gymnast through and through, she shares her journey and goals with grace and poise. She recognizes that being a leader on her team and having the honor of inspiring young women of color wouldn’t be possible without the support from donors.

“I’m extremely grateful,” says Amara, who is a Scott G Greenwood Memorial Scholarship recipient. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them. This support not only funds my five years at Washington but impacts the rest of my life.”

Now, Amara is focused on competing and her academics as she decides where she wants to attend physical therapy school.

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