DE Lamarr Houston speaks to the students. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, Oakland Raiders DE Lamarr Houston spoke with a group of students from Frick Middle School in Oakland, Calif. The students were part of GROW (Global Resiliency Outreach Work), which, according to GROW's founder and director Angie Wang, is "a venue for kids to be able to open up and share about themselves and learn how to give and receive."
According to the GROW website, the organization works in under-served communities, partnering with schools and other agencies to improve students' overall wellbeing. The mission page reads, "we want to empower at-risk youth to broaden their horizons and to help them understand that leading a productive, fulfilling life requires training, just like running a marathon. It's about the development of healthy life habits that are the foundation of lifelong resiliency."
GROW provides the students an environment to open up and feel safe in seeking support. "I think what we really aspire to is to sort of inspire an ethos for empathy and understanding for each other and to be able to support each other through tough times," said Wang. "These kids, unfortunately, go through so much on a daily basis and it's a big deal for some of them to even get to school."
Houston was invited to be a part of the weekly session that, according to Wang, is intended to allow students to be honest and real. "Just for [the students] to be here is a big deal and to have a venue where they can pour out what's in their heart, accept support, and give support, is really valuable," said Wang. "It helps to build emotional resilience which is really what we're all about. We want to give them the tools to be able to deal with life on life's terms as ugly or as wonderful as it is."
Houston joined the Tuesday session with the 7th and 8th graders at Frick Middle School by sharing his childhood struggles and how he was able to overcome them. He provided the group with advice on how to become successful despite life's struggles. "My message to the kids was basically try to set a goal and use your resources around you to accomplish it," said Houston. "And then next, you make good habits for yourself and you're firm in those habits and you use those habits to accomplish your goal. I just gave them a couple of examples of how I wake up in the morning at 5:00 a.m. and I get to work early and I start work before work gets started. I think that's something that helped them as an example as far as what they could use the habits for or anything that can help them accomplish their goals. I think I had a good little turn out today with the kids."
The second-year defensive end also talked about how he ignored the bad influences he encountered when he was younger by putting extra energy into his school work and listening to his teachers and coaches. He made sure the group understood that having a rough childhood does not determine success or failure. "There are great people who came from the worst situations," said Houston.
Wang was appreciative of Houston's willingness to open up and spend time with the students. "It was amazing," said Wang. "So first of all I think it's a huge testimony to the love that's out there for them. For a guy like Lamarr to take the time out of his really, really busy week with a game like Green Bay coming up, I think is huge. It shows them that people care about them. And for him to be so honest and to speak from the heart the way he did was huge. It just showed them that everyone is human and everyone struggles and if you want to be successful here's a path that you can take -here are tools that you can develop."
Houston was thankful he was able to make an impact. "It's always good to give back," said Houston. "Any time you can help someone in need, it's a good thing."