Recently, students at McKinley Elementary School in San Leandro, Calif., celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday. In order to help them celebrate, Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski, dressed in a red and white striped hat, read Green Eggs and Ham to the school's 5th graders. Gradkowski was not only at the school to read, but also to explain the importance of education and pursuing dreams.
"I hope [the kids] remember to do well in school. I think that's the most important thing and especially in 5th grade, the kids are starting to get older and sometimes you think it's not too cool to read," said Gradkowski. To try to inspire the kids to do their work and to be successful in school, Gradkowski spoke about the significance of education and how without his own dedication to school, he wouldn't be in the NFL today. "I'm in a position where I'm very fortunate to be able to speak to kids and they'll listen because they put you on a pedestal," said Gradkowski. "I want them to understand that I'm no different from them." It was clear from the beginning that the kids felt a connection to the Raiders quarterback as he made sure to show them how he grew up similar to them and how he still reads and studies, despite no longer being in school.
Gradkowski also emphasized the importance of listening to teachers and parents. "Your parents and your teachers are there for you. They want you to become a better person and that's why they're hard on you when you're growing up and I hope they understand that. Maybe next time they take some criticism from they're mom or dad or their teacher that they understand why they're doing it. It's because they know they can be a better kid or a better student." He finished his message to the students by expressing the importance of respecting fellow classmates and understanding that everyone is different and will have different dreams, but to respect those differences.
Following his inspiring message about the importance of education, Gradkowski fielded questions from the students. "I think my favorite part of today was just my interaction with the kids," said Gradkowski. "I always love when they ask questions to see what they're thinking and what they want to know about me or football or even other players."
This interaction was exactly what kindergarten teacher Karla Ball was hoping for. "What it really means to these students is that when they see athletes play they just look at them for what they do physically, but when they come and they make contact in this way with the students, they know that they have to prepare for it, they know that it doesn't come easily, that there are risks involved to being a player." Ball also hoped the students took away Gradkowski's message of living your dream. "Whatever you dream, work towards it and work hard and that's the best message that he had today." Gradkowski hoped for the same, "I was in the exact spot they were at this age and if they have dreams, to go after it. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Hopefully, that sinks in. If I helped a kid or two then it's been a successful day."
Gradkowski was at the school to celebrate the life of Dr. Seuss, but he also inspired a group of students to focus on their education, respect those around them, and to pursue their dreams.