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NFL players from around the League are winning where it matters most — in the classroom. Their goal is to recruit 99,000 volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. Their game plan is YOU. Help them pull off the ultimate play. Enter the draft today.

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United Way TEAM NFL Youth Empowerment Summit - Fueled by Compassion

andrea-masendaBy Andrea Masenda

United Way TEAM NFL Intern

The relationship between United Way and the NFL makes for an unbeatable combination.  The reach of influence streaming from NFL players such as Carolina Panther’s QB Cam Newton and Green Bay Packer wide receiver Greg Jennings is undeniable.

You might think their celebrity would be enough to ensure the success of the first annual United Way Youth Empowerment Summit with TEAM NFL. But with egos checked at the door, the focus turned to how we can work together to ensure the success of our nation’s youth. It was then that I realized the summit was a meeting place for some of the most compassionate, caring athletes in the world to share their outlooks on education, how it changed their lives and how important it is for every child in this country to pursue the gift of education.

Men who are commonly in the limelight for their athletic capabilities, were answering questions from high school students and brainstorming ideas for engaging more people as volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. Eighteen players in all—each one part of a collective group of individuals who put their whole hearts into creating ways to change the world. 

Day two opened with a video where, last summer, members of TEAM NFL ventured to the homes of high school students to encourage them stick to their curriculum and earn their diplomas. The students were on the verge of dropping out of high school, and were completely caught off guard by the surprise visits from the superstars. In one powerful moment, Buffalo Bills’ strong safety George Wilson was sitting on the bed of one high school junior. His voice was laden with sincerity when he told the student that if he graduated, he would be there for the ceremony taking pictures of his accomplishment; yet another example of the heart of these players and their strong desire to see students succeed.

Virgil Green, Denver Bronco’s tight end blew me away with his ability to use examples from his own life and journey in education to connect with high school students. Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell gleamed with enthusiasm when discussing ideas for engaging a large audience towards the initiative. Oakland Raiders safety Michael Huff‘s ability to connect with students on a personal level was beyond admirable. Cincinnati Bengal cornerback Vinny Rey’s genuine interaction and sincerity with every individual at the summit gave me even more respect for the man than I had prior. Virtually every single thing that Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did and said confirmed his role as a model to all in attendance. 

The relationship between United Way and the NFL is an unbeatable combination. These players came and they cared, and they are well on their way to succeeding with their mission to lower high school drop out rates in America.