Note: This is the third installment in United Way's three part series. Find out how other NFL players are LIVING UNITED and changing lives below this post.
By Nnamdi Asomugha
When I became involved with United Way a few years ago it was a natural fit. Since 2007, I’ve been working to help disadvantaged youth in their pursuit of higher education. Like many of my colleagues in the NFL, I never take for granted how fortunate I am to have had access to a quality education.
Last week, I flew to Alexandria, Virginia as part of my role leading the United Way NFL Player Scouting Team—a core group of NFL players committed to helping United Way recruit one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors. When I arrived I learned about a local teen at risk of dropping out of high school, and decided to pay him a surprise visit to encourage him to stay in school.
In the end, a lot of the surprise was on me. I was blown away by 17-year-old Furious. Currently a high school sophomore, he is behind in school, yet he is one of the brightest, most well-rounded kids I’ve ever met. We talked about everything from sports to music to his love of Japanese history and culture. When he grows up he wants to be a historian. But as we discussed, first he has to graduate high school. ? ?As we talked about school, it was immediately evident that Furious does very well in science and history, but often fails the subjects he’s less interested in. Further demonstrating the divide between his potential and his current status, his grandmother told me about a recent placement test where he scored on the level of a college freshman, yet at 17 he just finished his freshman year of high school.
Since I know Furious is capable of so much more, I asked him what would be most helpful in getting him on track in school. He told me that a lot of times his teachers aren’t able to give him the one-on-one attention he needs to understand and engage in certain subjects, like math—his least favorite.
I was excited to hear his answer because I knew that United Way was setting him up with a mentor to ensure he has the support system he needs to succeed. I told him that we were connecting him with a mentor to give him the one-on-one guidance he needs to succeed at school. He was thrilled, and the excitement was contagious. ? ?I left Furious’ house with a new energy around this work. Encouraging him to stay in school was truly moving, but almost more powerful was seeing his genuine excitement about being matched with a mentor. It reinforced what I already knew—we all have the opportunity to positively impact the life of a young person, and in turn, that impact will surely ripple out to the community as a whole.