Miguel Wilson is known in fashion circles as a men’s celebrity fashion designer and owner of Miguel Wilson Collection. The Washington, D.C. native, is also the founder of Atlanta Fashion & Polo Classic, which is a premier luxury event that benefits the Ride To The Olympics Foundation (RTO), an Atlanta-based nonprofit that Wilson founded. RTO’s mission is to increase awareness and community engagement through horse-related sports, fashion and leadership development by introducing inner city youth to equestrian sports.
“The kids don’t pay [any fees to participate]. We raise money for them. These are kids whose parents don’t have the resources to be able to do this on their own,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who actively plays polo, reflected on his memories of why it is important to invest in leadership and development of inner city youth.
“I grew up in Washington D.C., and fell in love with horses at a camp, and that camp exposure led to me getting jobs at barns, cleaning and getting riding lessons. It helped to expose me to something that wasn’t common for kids in our neighborhood, but another thing that was great about that whole experience was that it gave me something to do,” Wilson said.
He recalls that his grandfather helped with transportation to get to the barn and back. The trip was approximately 45 minutes away in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Wilson also started riding horses around eight years old. His great-grandmother would even “spend her last dollar” to put him in a horse show. Wilson felt relaxed while enjoying fresh air and running atop green grass, getting away from a rough environment.
“My weekends and free time were spent at a barn cleaning horses and working, not getting in trouble and doing other things,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that his passion for horses helped to improve his confidence level and pursue a college path. He attended Bowie State University and Wilson earned his U.S. Army commission there before transferring to Clark Atlanta University. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Clark Atlanta University and an MBA from Campbell University. Wilson served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Additionally, the nonprofit founder mentioned that in 2019, RTO helped to form and fund The Morehouse College Polo Team in the first year of its existence.
“It is the only Black college polo team in history,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s leadership development plan was reignited by his son, Miguel Wilson, who is now a 24-year-old PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, according to Kimberly Winston-Lewis, CEO of RTO, the Atlanta Fashion & Polo Classic and human resources director of Miguel Wilson Collection.
The elder Wilson further explained that in 2013, young Miguel rode horses and aspired to head the Olympics. The father did not have the means to support his son at that level.
“I told him that I think it would be a good idea for us to start a foundation to not only pursue his dream of riding, but also to introduce and expose other kids that don’t have opportunities to do this,” the father said.
Today, the visionary uses horses to help youth to network with people who can make a difference in their lives.
Winston-Lewis said that RTO targets middle schoolers and high school students, although some programs are offered to youth who are eight years old and up. She added that RTO will be coming to Prince George’s County, Maryland in August 2023 as a part of a two-day summer camp for 50 children with the County Executive of Prince George’s County, Angela Alsobrooks’ summer youth Passport Experience program. Wilson explained that youth will observe a polo game, learn about basic horse care and get introduced to horsemanship, in hopes of interesting some of them to take horse riding lessons.
RTO is open to bringing more events to the D.C., Maryland and the Northern Virginia area. RTO’s founder feels that youth in Baltimore could benefit from participating in the nonprofit’s activities.
“My goal is to create polo teams from kids composed of inner-city situations through partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters and 100 Black Men. These organizations serve kids that we also want to serve,” he said.
The trailblazer added that he wants these youth to have opportunities to play against each other in Atlanta and the D.C. area. Winston-Lewis further explained that RTO wants to connect with executives and business owners who are willing to partner in the D.C., Maryland and the Northern Virginia area to support RTO’s programs and become sponsors.