There are 32 teams in the NFL. There are 53 players on each NFL team. That’s 1,696 players who have chosen football as their career and their passion.
There are 1.2 million students that drop out of high school every year. That’s about 7,000 students a day — 7,000 kids and young adults that decide their education isn’t worth it. 7,000 kids and young adults that put passions and careers aside.
So what if 32 driven and passionate players pledged to find 3,000 volunteers who are willing to make a dent in the 1.2 million students figure?
That’s exactly what is happening, and for the first time in the nearly 40-year partnership between the NFL and United Way.
The Youth Empowerment Summit is being held in Washington, D.C. from June 19-21: Students, social media interns, teachers, education community leaders and players are gathering at United Way headquarters, American University and Capitol Hill to bring greater awareness, resources and people to United Ways’ effort to recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors.
The overall goal is to cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2018.
In the opening remarks at the conference, Eric McDonnell, Executive Vice President of the United Way Bay Area, reminisced about a young boy he met named Richard.
McDonnell was asking a group of young students what they wanted to be when they grew up, and Richard’s answer really stuck with him.
“I want to be a pimp just like my uncle,” Richard said. “I want a lot of money, a lot of cars and a lot of girls.”
Richard was 9 years old.
McDonnell realized then what his passion in life was going to be – helping young kids and students find theirs, and helping them realize that all roads lead to education. McDonnell emphasized the importance of access and exposure to quality literature and books, and the fact that caring adults will always make the difference, no matter the case or situation.
“The least experienced educators are in classrooms where children need the best,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell said the importance of mentorship, both outside and in the classroom, has never been more apparent.
And what better mentors than NFL stars?
Nnamdi Asomugha is the National Team Captain of United Way’s Team NFL and a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles. He majored in corporate finance at the University of California, Berkeley in 2006, and has been the instrumental force behind Team NFL and United Way.
“One of the most rewarding parts has been being able to get other players involved,” Asomugha said. “Seeing how many people are involved in this particular event, and know that this came from a conversation I was having with Tracey Holmes from United Way, and knowing that it could build up from just two people talking, that’s been pretty special.”
Team NFL started with just four players alongside Asomugha: Leigh Bodden of the New England Patriots, Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals, Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns and George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills.
Now, 32 players from different teams in the NFL are involved in the cause.
“Being here today, seeing people from all the different walks of life, how just a simple kind word or act of kindness or you just caring about somebody can change the world,” said Vonta Leach, fullback for the Baltimore Ravens. “We’re going to go back to our respective hometowns, our respective teams and take this experience with us.”
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