NFL Hall of Famers Participate in Youth Summit
After spending a decade or more sacrificing their bodies, overcoming injuries and dealing with the ups and downs of a professional football career, many former National Football League (NFL) players spend the second part of their careers giving back. Many players believe their NFL career provides them a platform to go on and do bigger things in life after the crowd stops cheering. Many players establish foundations and non-profits to help communities and youth in need.
NFL Hall of Famer Darrell Green is one former NFL great that is spending his time in retirement as a mentor, a motivational speaker and a guiding light for kids that feel like they are stuck in the dark. Green, who is a model ambassador for the NFL, works closely with the NFL Foundation and the corporate community to touch, inspire and mentor youth all across the nation.
For the third consecutive year, Green partnered with the Centene Corporation, Health Net and the NFL to host his “Strong Youth Strong Community” Youth Summit for middle school and high school age kids. Green, along with a couple of his Hall of Fame friends including Anthony Munoz, Hall of Fame offensive lineman, and Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame corner back/safety hosted a three day Youth Summit in three locations. The event kicked off in the State capital at the Sacramento Convention Center, and the second day the event was held on the Campus of Cal State, Northridge. The third event was held in Los Angeles on the campus of LA Trade Tech Community College.
Hundreds of youth from throughout Southern California were attendance. With the help of local grassroots organizations, the annual Youth Summit proved to be a huge success. Along with Centene Corporation, the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Los Angeles, Catholic Big Brother/Big Sisters, BOSS and the Community Coalition kids were able to spend the day talking with and interacting with greatness in a very relaxed and comfortable environment.
The day was started with a rally on stage where each Hall of Fame mentor shared a life story about their childhood and upbringing. The lectures were the perfect icebreaker to let the youth in attendance know that they too came from very humble beginnings, but with the help of mentors, teachers and good people they were able to achieve their goals. Now their goal is to help others achieve theirs.
The Hall of Famers were joined on stage by Anthony’s son Michael Munoz, who served as the lively Master of Ceremonies and kept the youth engaged. Iman McFarland also joined the Hall of Famers on stage to share her stories growing up as an under privileged youth. McFarland is a former standout NCAA women’s basketball player from the University of North Carolina. Standing at 6’3” tall McFarland was a lock for the WNBA, but playing professional basketball was never her goal. Her goal was to use her height and athletic ability to get an education and thrive in business world. McFarland is now the Chief Operations Officer of the 21st Century Expo Group, Inc.
After the rally, group exercises and interaction between the youth and Hall of Fame mentors, the kids broke off into groups based on age to attend “Break Out Sessions.”
The “Break Out Sessions” consisted of smaller groups where the youth could openly talk about many of the issues and obstacles that seem to prevent them from moving forward in life. The topics included: self-esteem, bullying, poverty, hunger, gang violence and other topics that plague inner-city youth. The Break Out Sessions were hosted by adult stakeholders in the community. The ones that will continue to interact with the kids on a daily basis.
For Anthony Munoz, this is his second year participating with the Strong Youth Strong Community program (SYSC) and he’s looking forward to being a part of the program for years to come to help it grow and impact more youth.
“This is a great program and great opportunity for the area youth to talk with people that come from the same back ground as they do. I know their struggle. I faced similar struggles as a youth,” said Munoz.
During his lecture, Munoz gave the crowd the vivid picture of his upbringing. Single mother of five, with limited income, limited food to eat, but a lot of love. Each story had a similar sound. No father in the house, low income, multiple siblings, impoverished community. However, each success story had a similar sound as well.
Aeneas Williams used pop culture to connect with the youth and get his point across, and the response was great. His interaction with the youth along with the back and forth dialogue kept the kids engaged.
“I enjoy interacting with kids, especially at the end. When you see the impact we have on a child it’s amazing. Often times you see a light come on, and that’s when you know the child is getting what you’re talking about,” said Williams. “When the community stakeholders continue the work that is done here on a daily basis that’s when the progress and the change really begins to have an impact on the child and community.”
Over the years, SYSC has been in over 10 states so far. In addition to the recent three- day California Youth Summits. The Hall of Famers have also hosted SYSC Youth Summit events in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and a number of other cities.
At the end of the day’s events, the youth can share what the Summit meant to them, how it had an impact on them, and how they plan on taking what they learned and use it to do better and make better decisions. Often when the youth begin to tell their stories it moves the other kids as well as the adults and Hall of Famers to tears.
Like the old slogan says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” These Hall of Fame former NFL greats are doing their part in keeping the village together.
Darrell Green was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2008, Anthony Munoz was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1998 and Aeneas Williams was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2014.