CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As Cam Newton sat on a stool looking out on a crowd full of 60 students and their families, he had a certain type of pride that not even scoring the game winning touchdown can bring.
To Newton's right, his mother Jackie also sat up on stage. To his left, Toussaint Romain, the public defender whose face became known all over the country when he stood between police and rioters when protests broke out in Charlotte following the Keith Scott shooting.
The group sat up front in a industrial room at Camp North End as Newton's vision began to come to life.
"It's been multiple years now, but with the help of the Winters group, and my foundation it's getting life. And this is something I'm proud of," Newton said.
It was the first official announcement about a new program Newton will launch in January called Un1ted As 1.
For Newton, it started with a realization he had when he went back to get his degree at Auburn. He was sitting in the back on the first day of a sociology class.
“The first day, the first question was, ‘When was the first time that you could remember that you had every day encounters with a person of a different race,” Newton told the group.
He says he was surprised by all the answers he heard from his other classmates, and surprised that his answer reflected the 17-year-old boy who enrolled at Florida early.
"The first time I ever had an interaction with a different race on a normal basis was when I went to college," Newton told the crowd. "I'm thinking back on it now, and how far of a disconnect I was from life. As a young kid from Atlanta, Georgia by way of College Park, a lot of people don't have that opportunity to get out," Newton explained.
It was the first time he ever heard of Kenny Chesney, and the first time his mind was open and intrigued by all he may not have experienced with a childhood he says wasn’t very diverse.
Newton began thinking about a program like the one he debuted on Tuesday.
“It’s big, because in essence this came from a testimony this came from me. I was embarrassed to say the first time I had any type of dealing with a Caucasian was in college, but everyone was saying the same thing. So I want to use that, and bring people up and educate them about other people,” Newton said.
His hope is that the Un1ted As 1 program does just that, brings kids in to talk about diversity, social issues and understand the power of influence.
“I feel as if the more people understand each other, the better our environment around us will be,” Newton said.
The program is a three-day event that will take place January 13-15th. It targets middle school students, with the hope of reaching kids at a young enough age to help them grow, but an old enough age that they understand the bigger picture.
“I think this is the perfect age to do it, and we’re starting now in middle school and hopefully over the years we can graduate to different ages and even younger as well,” Newton explained.
But there’s a bigger hope than just seeing the program grow; Newton wants to see real change. And while he knows it’s a task that is bigger than even the Panthers quarterback that wears the S on his chest, he knows by reaching one student he may end up reaching plenty more.
“I may not impact millions, but I want to impact that one person that may impact millions,” Newton said.