Thursday, March 24, 2011

True Giving, True Winning

Giving comes from a sense of duty to a community at large, no matter who or where the providers come from. Such giving has resonance if it comes from people who work to compete and win on the largest stages. Both were on display recently for two lucky high schools in New York City.

Last Wednesday, students from the Bronx Leadership Academy and the Business of Sports School were greeted with respected athletes, entertainers and media professionals as part of a successful philanthropic effort, “Giving and Winning”, sponsored by the La Belle Vie Foundation and Blazer Capital Management. These teens didn’t just meet any players, but men who grew up locally in Super Bowl champions Andrew Quarless (Green Bay Packers) and Jay Alford (Seattle Seahawks, formerly of the New York Giants).

Earlier that morning, the Bronx Leadership Academy welcomed these players with a raucous celebration of sorts; full of the energy that could be likened to a mini parade for champions. Yet, the afternoon provided a quieter and smaller gathering at the Business of Sports School where the players, along with BET Networks Vice President Rodney Gill and actress/former American Idol finalist Kinnik Sky spoke to students about the pursuit of great dreams.

Here at BOSS, this unique charter school in Midtown offers ninth and tenth graders a chance to learn about the industry surrounding the games they love. Several students were able to moderate the panel of these distinguished guests; asking about their pursuits for sports and entertainment success, how they prepared themselves for the future and what students can do to break into these competitive fields.

After the panel, Quarless, the Brooklyn-born, Long Island-reared tight end spoke to how children in urban communities are not usually given opportunities to shine as they could. “I feel that I have a story to tell that a lot of these kids can relate to,” said Quarless. “I’m only 22. I’m just four years removed from high school and it feels like just the other day, I was in their shoes, same classrooms with dreams. I’m just here to let them know that they can come true.”

Alford spoke about a similar desire to connect with the youth through his own experiences.“I grew up in the inner city and I didn’t expect any of this to happen. A lot of people counted me out. Through hard work, I proceeded to get to bigger and better things.”

Of course, the NFL lockout was top of mind for the kids as one of the students asked Alford his opinion on the battle between the owners and players’ union. These kids at BOSS are savvy enough to understand that athletic careers are short, so when Alford talked about his post-NFL aspirations of owning his own transportation company, it certainly intrigued some students. When asked after the panel how the lockout can affect those plans, the defensive tackle said the labor strife “put a damper on it, but I don’t think it’ll last too long”. Quarless expressed a similar optimism; “I feel that there’s a lot of greed involved, but I think they’re going an agreement soon enough.”

This wasn’t just a day to learn for the BOSS students, either. While Quarless doesn’t have his Super Bowl ring just yet, the Orange, New Jersey-native Alford proudly sported the jewels he won as a rookie with the Giants in 2007. Students crowded around him and took turns gawking and holding the ring. It was a stirring moment for these teens; they were able to see tangible forms of success in ways they may only have envisioned through the media or in the classroom.

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