MESSAGE FROM ROLAND:
During my 8-year NFL career, I have been fortunate enough to play in some of the biggest games in football. From Monday Night Football thrillers to Super Bowl glory, I know that to win the biggest games, you need:
-An intelligent game plan
-An emphasis on teamwork
-Courageous individuals who will do what it takes to win.
Right now, there is an urgent and critical game being played in my hometown of Rochester, NY that has brought me to tears and requires immediate action.
Said simply, young males ages 12-18 in Rochester, NY are in unprecedented crisis. In addition to chronic school absenteeism, increased gang participation, rampant incarceration and employability numbers on the decline, recent reports have also confirmed that my hometown has the LOWEST High School graduation rates of Black & Latino males in America; hovering around a dismal 9%.
As a Rochester, NY native, when I heard this news, I was disgusted. Outraged. Heartbroken. But most importantly, as a proud dad of three young boys myself, inspired to do something about it. For eight months after being alerted of this crisis, I travelled back and forth from my home in Los Angeles, CA to Rochester, NY to listen and learn directly from these young men about their challenges and what they need to succeed. For the better part of a year, I heard their stories. Embraced their pains. Saw their tears.
These young men (no matter the ethnicity) are in desperate need of individuals to provide:
Delivered in an authentic and genuine way they can relate to. With the majority of young males ages 12-18 in Rochester, NY also live in fatherless homes, its clear these young men are simply crying out for father figures. People to look up to. Relatable individuals who can help them discover their value, instill hope and help navigate through the obstacles standing in between them and their dreams.
In response, I created the Champion Academy, an innovative mentoring and empowerment initiative to help students succeed through the power of:
What makes this initiative so exciting is that it's:
-Brings national exposure to the challenges of my hometown.
To date, I have exhausted my personal resources to jumpstart this initiative and have worked diligently for months with both Mayor Warren and Superintendent Vargas to attempt to secure critical seed funding to launch a united initiative. While their respective efforts were valiant and deeply appreciated, their governing bodies are not unanimously convinced that now is the time to make an impactful investment into this troubled population.
I don't agree.
Just watch the news. Visit the schools. Spend time in Rochester's toughest neighborhoods. These young men are failing NOW. Dying NOW. Loosing hope NOW. Becoming restless and more violent NOW. To add to the challenge, summertime months equate to even less structure and more idle time for this population to make poor choices.
This impact is far-reaching and is setting the entire region up for a scary future. There is no more time to waste. Something must be done NOW to start addressing the complex needs of young males within the City of Rochester.
Famous author and anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
I know in my heart that despite challenges, NOW is the time for the people to take a stand. I believe that I am not alone in my assessment and that if given the opportunity, they will also have the courage to stand with me.
Here's our chance.
So far, the Champion Academy has been nothing short of spectacular. From Monday, August 4th - Friday, August 15th, 2014, we kicked off with a FREE two-week summer mentoring program for 423 Rochester City School District students grades 7-12 that included free:
-Bus transportation to/from Charlotte High School
To make it even better, the program included an entertaining and engaging curriculum that included topics such as:
-Health & Nutrition
-College & Career Readiness
More than 90% of our attendees lived in fatherless homes and represented more than a dozen gangs. We worked in partnership with the Rochester City School District, the Rochester Police Department, New York State Police, Pathways To Peace and Operation Transformation Rochester Fresh Start. The mayor and superintendent both stopped by in support. Connections were made. Tears were shed. Prayers answered. Lives where changed.
It was beautiful.
But as my grandma used to always say, seeing is believing. Check out this link: http://youtu.be/jM6fq-FK4ls
Now, we want to continue what we started. So lets talk some numbers…
There are currently more than 10,000 young males within the City of Rochester that need our help. As a parent, I know that a two-week mentoring camp, with free transportation, lunch, dinner, games, football training from NFL players, mentorship and life skills training PLUS and a year worth of mentoring and support would run a pretty large price tag.
Honestly, the two-week summer camp alone would be worth at least $800. Then, add in a year of innovative mentorship and other amenities? Under any fair assessment, this program could easily cost thousands of dollars per participant.
But not the Champion Academy.
Due to gracious in-kind donations from across the globe, our program costs less than $650 per participant for the entire YEAR. With your support, we can not only raise enough funds for our first goal of 500 participants, but we can KEEP GOING to engage and empower as many of the remaining 9,500+ young men that we can.
But just like my playing days in the NFL, I know I cannot win this game alone. It's going to take teamwork. An intelligent game plan and most importantly, courageous citizens willing stand with me to make this initiative a reality.
I am humbly asking that you partner with me to help the Champion Academy. Young men in Rochester, NY need to know that there are more than just a charitable few who believe they are a cause worth fighting for.
To prove the point, we have started a crowdfunding campaign at www.GoFundMe.com/HelpRochesterBoys
to show the world how many people care. Please join this movement. No amount is too small. To show our appreciation, we are even giving away gifts for each donation of $10 or more.
If you would prefer to send a check or money order, please do! Make it payable to the "Champion Academy" and send it to:Champion Academy*
c/o Rochester Area Community Foundation
500 East Avenue Rochester, NY 14607
*All contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
Do you know anybody else with a giving heart? I bet if they knew about this passionate effort to fight back in Rochester, NY, they would probably support in some way. Please give them a chance to join this movement by sharing our crisis with as many people as you can. www.GoFundMe.com/HelpRochesterBoys
makes sharing SO easy to do.
After you donate, simply click the SHARE buttons on the top or bottom of the page and it will quickly get to everyone in your social network.
In closing, a heartfelt THANK YOU for taking the time to read this message and learn more about this crisis in my hometown. Positive mentorship and timely empowerment truly saved MY life as a young man. Please allow me to do the same for others.
PS. For more information, feel free to email me directly or visit our website at www.Champion.Academy
Super Bowl Champion | Rochester, NY Native
Author | Speaker | Performance Expert | Proud Dad