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Everyone Needs a 12th Man

In Seattle's Century Link Stadium, the number 12 is retired. The number 12 is sewn into the collar of every player's jersey. It's built into the team's core mission. And at every Seahawks game, a flag rises in honor of number 12. For this team, the number 12 represents the fan--a throng of people so passionate and boisterous for their team, they can literally have an impact on the game.

We could all use a number 12 in our lives. Someone who cheers for us despite our shortcomings, shows up to support us rain or shine, and has our backs no matter the record.

Every day, 7,000 kids drop out of school. Research shows caring adults involved in kids' lives have the capacity to increase academic achievement. More than anything, our kids need a 12th man.

They need someone to ensure they are reading at level by third grade because kids learn to read for the first few years; after that they are reading to learn. If they cannot read, they get discouraged and eventually drop out.

Every kid needs someone to listen to them and encourage them to stay in the game. They need to know that someone is paying attention, raising the bar, coaching them through life's challenges.

It's likely that someone played that role for you. You can pay it forward by becoming a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor. Be a game changer for a kid. Pledge today at unitedway.org/team-nfl.