Defensive backs Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell participated in Hometown Huddle 2012. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The Oakland Raiders teamed up with United Way, the NFL, UPS, and East Bay Asian Youth Center at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland for Hometown Huddle 2012. Defensive backs Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell spoke to the students about living a healthy lifestyle and then took the kids outside to "Play 60," getting them active by stretching, running around and playing football. The students were also provided backpacks filled with school supplies.
"We're at Garfield Elementary School, myself, Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell," said Huff. "We're trying to promote healthy living, eat healthy, go to school, go to class, listen to your parents, all that good stuff. We're just trying to give back to the kids."
To have a positive impact with the students, the Raiders worked with the United Way, whose overarching goal is to reduce poverty. "We know a key to cutting poverty is insuring young people get a great education because it creates opportunities for them and their families," said Eric McDonnell, Chief Operating Officer for United Way of the Bay Area. "This is an opportunity for us to reinforce the importance of what kids are learning and doing in the classroom to what they're able to do out in the community and ultimately successful in life."
Hometown Huddle, a league-wide day of service, brought together organizations from all over the Bay Area to collectively help local students. "We're excited to not only celebrate the Oakland Raiders commitment to community and young people, but also celebrating NFL Play 60 and the opportunity to connect what young people are able to do in the classroom with the idea of having healthy bodies," explained McDonnell. "Healthy bodies, healthy minds, successful kids."
SS Tyvon Branch breaks his team's huddle. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The three Raiders defensive backs focused on the United Way's goals while speaking to the students. "Really just getting kids to focus on eating healthy, going to school and just living right," explained Huff. "We know a lot of times you can have bad influences so we just want to give back to them and show them a really positive side of living right. The key is education. Our [future] President of the United States might be here right now, so we want them to grow; we want to make sure they get the most out of life."
Huff, Branch and Mitchell presented autographed footballs to student-leaders before heading out to the field to Play 60. After stretching and warming up, the players led the students in a football game. They wanted to focus on the message of exercise and healthy living, but also show the kids that people are invested in their futures. "I think what they will take away is the idea that people care," said Jamie Lopez, Managing Director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center. "There are almost 40 people out here all to have fun, celebrate, and give back to the community. So I think what they'll take away is just the sense of knowing that there is a bigger community out there that are looking out for them."
Nikita Williams, site coordinator and parent of a 1st grader at Garfield Elementary, has seen how the students respond to Hometown Huddle. "I've noticed that the students are really engaged [in Hometown Huddle]," said Williams. "I feel in this community there is a need for a lot of positivity due to the violence that reoccurs in the neighborhood. Just making sure we always have positive reinforcement…it helps when people like the Raiders and the United Way and UPS partner and come out and helping our students."
Williams has also noticed the impact the Raiders and the event had on the students. "Today's event is to make sure our students know that they have outlets to go to college, to live healthy, and to be awesome leaders and, with that being said, the players are a great way to go about that way because they have been to college, they are healthy and they are great leaders," said Williams. "Being in the NFL, they show our students that you can be someone if you come from a neighborhood that is rough like ours."
DB Michael Huff runs with the kids at Garfield Elementary.Photo by Tony Gonzales
Although teachers and volunteers can pass along positive messages, having those messages come from the Raiders has added value. "The Raiders are important in that obviously they're leaders and heroes to these kids," said Lopez. "So for them to come out and be a positive voice, speaking on healthy living, healthy eating, exercise; I think one of the Raiders players said you have to listen to your parents, just hearing that kind of message coming from people who are heroes to these kids, I think goes a long way."
The three defensive backs had a blast interacting with the kids and bringing them positive energy. "Any time we can come out here and give back to the kids, I think it's a big deal," said Huff. "I wish I was able to play with an NFL player when I was little, so anytime we get any chance to come back and give to the kids and give a positive energy and positive message, I think it's big."
"We're in Oakland," added Huff. "Everyone in Oakland is a Raiders fan; we have the best fans in the world so anytime we can come back and give back to the kids and the youth, it's a big deal."
You can join Huff's United Way team, Team Huff, and pledge to help Michael Huff and United Way cut the dropout rate in half by becoming a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor. http://www.unitedway.org/team-nfl/players/michael-huff1/