Students from the Oakland Police Activities League after-school program pose for a group photo before meeting the coaching staff and touring the facility. Photo by Tony Gonzales.
Recently, The Oakland Raiders hosted nearly 75 students from the Oakland Police Activities League (PAL) after-school program at the Raiders Alameda, Calif., facility. The children enjoyed a fun afternoon that started with a tour of the facility, included a question and answer session with the Raiders coaching staff, and concluded with an ice cream social.
"The Police Activities League is a non-profit organization and we're part of the police department," explained Officer Mildred Oliver, Oakland PAL Executive Director. "We provide educational, recreational and enrichment programs for kids 5-18."
According to the Oakland PAL's website, the after-school program provides students with assistance on homework, access to computers, arts & crafts activities, opportunities to play sports, and other activities that are safe alternatives to crime, violence and drugs.
The Raiders were excited to invite the PAL to enjoy the unique experience of visiting the facility and meeting the coaching staff as a change to their daily after-school routine. "We thoroughly enjoy working with the Oakland Police Department on a variety of initiatives and we particularly enjoy working with the Police Activities League – these kids are terrific and I think we had every bit as much fun as they did," said Raiders Chief Executive Amy Trask.
The PAL's visit began with a tour of the practice fields and weight room, a part of the facility rarely seen by visitors. When the group arrived in the weight room, they were met by Strength and Conditioning Coach Brad Roll who spoke to the students about surrounding themselves with positive role models. He also emphasized the importance of respecting those who have their best interests at heart - including teachers, parents, and law enforcement.
The tour continued through the Raiders locker room and finished in the players' meeting room, where they were greeted by the Raiders coaching staff. Head Coach Hue Jackson took the stage and spoke to the attentive students about trust, respect, and setting goals. Coach Jackson then opened up the floor for questions. "Just to see their eyes and their excitement of being here in a very professional organization around some great people, hopefully we made a difference today," said Coach Jackson.
The students asked questions that impressed the coaches and had the whole coaching staff involved. "What did we want to be if we weren't football coaches? Who are our Hall of Famers on the staff? They were well thought out," said Coach Jackson. "I think the kids came in with questions and we answered them the best we could and it was a great time."
Having Coach Jackson speak to the students had an enormous impact on the PAL guests. "Some of the older kids realize that 'wow, that's the Head Coach. He's the one who's telling them all what to do, the players, and training the players,'" explained Officer Oliver. "But some of the younger kids, they won't even realize the impact of it until maybe a couple of years from now. But for our middle school kids, this is huge. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I really appreciate [the Raiders] for inviting us here today."
The visit was a fun experience for not only the Oakland PAL, but also for the Raiders coaching staff. "I think it's always great when you can talk to kids and particularly when you have them come here to the Raiders facility," said Hall of Famer Willie Brown. "That means a lot not only to them, but to us, because we are all involved in doing something with kids."
The day concluded with one more treat, as the students created ice cream sundaes. Coach Jackson, Amy Trask, and other Raiders staff members helped scoop the ice cream and crack the concoctions. It was a perfect end to an enjoyable and interactive afternoon.
"I think this day is fabulous," said Coach Jackson. "It's great that our organization brings kids in and this PAL program has the opportunity to meet our coaches and meet our staff. I think it's awesome."