QB Terrelle Pryor speaks to the students at New Highland Academy. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, Oakland Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor visited the Solar Rays Extended Day Program at New Highland Academy in Oakland, Calif. Pryor spoke to the students about nutrition, staying active, and the importance of education. The students were excited to meet the quarterback and paid close to attention to what he had to say.
The students are part of an after school program that is run by the Higher Ground Neighborhood Development Corp. According to the Higher Ground website, the "after-school program mission is to provide a safe and nurturing space where students are given both the tools and access necessary to be successful in the academic arena while exposing them and their families to varied cultural, artistic and fitness experiences that will assist in their development into happy, well-rounded and successful people."
Khariyyah Shabazz-Wade, the coordinator for the Higher Ground organization and the coordinator for New Highland Elementary, runs the after school program for 100 kids. "We provide services such as enrichment, academics, activities, service learning, sports programming and more," said Shabazz-Wade.
The New Highland Academy multi-purpose room was decorated in Silver and Black to welcome Pryor. "Today was 'Meet a Raider' day," explained Shabazz-Wade. "A part of our curriculum is something that's called, 'Community All Starz.' We basically have our athletes learn what it is to be an athlete as well as a member of their community. So within that, they have to research players, they have to find out what do they do for charity work and basically do what those players do within their communities. This year we had our whole football team organize this day to have Mr. Terrelle Pryor come through and speak to the kids."
The students gathered in the multi-purpose room and waited excitedly for Pryor. "They were so excited," said Shabazz-Wade. "They screamed, yelled, it was hard to get them to actually calm down because they were so excited. They were ecstatic."
Pryor spoke about the importance of paying attention and working hard in school, staying physically active, and eating right. After responding to questions from the students, Pryor took the after school program participants outside to exercise. "It was a good time," said Pryor. "It was a good time to spend a couple hours with the kids."
The rookie quarterback out of Ohio State led the students through exercises and capped off the afternoon by signing autographs for everyone in attendance. "Any time you can do it, you have to humble yourself and come out and show the kids reasons why they can be where they want to be some time in their life by sharing your story," said Pryor. "It's great for me and it humbles me."
Shabazz-Wade hopes the students take away a few of the messages Pryor shared. "I hope they get what he actually had to get through to get the position that he's in," said Shabazz-Wade. "He talked a lot about what he did in college. He talked about him playing sports for 17 years before he even became a professional athlete. He talked about nutrition, what he eats, the exercise he does, everything that it takes to actually be a professional athlete."
The students, parents, and after-school tutors were excited that Pryor was able and willing to spend the afternoon with the students.