A pair of Oakland Raiders took some time out of their busy schedule to visit a local Fremont high school recently to speak with a select group of students about the importance of education and the need for a Commitment to Excellence in the class room.
FB Oren O'Neal and QB Bruce Gradkowski, along with the Fremont Police Department, teamed up to reach out to American High School students and help inspire them to achieve their greatest academic potential. The Fremont Police Department spoke concerning the relationship between classroom performance and crime, while some of the counselors presented the students with statistics demonstrating that relationship and talked to them about what they need to do to go to college.
Both O'Neal and Gradkowski were then able to share with the excited group of roughly175 students, ages 14 to 17, their personal stories about the importance of and their commitment to education.
The players walked into an auditorium full of excited students eager to listen and ask questions from two of their idols, whom they are typically used to only seeing on the field. For Gradkowski, the day reminded him of how hard he has worked for his achievements, and how he can now help inspire others to do the same.
"It means a lot to me to have an influence in a kid's life, the way we do. We are blessed to be in the position we are. It is nice to go into a high school and be able to reflect good things upon students, and hopefully they take good things out of it," Gradkowski said. "I want them to know the most important thing is their education; it comes first. None of us would be where we are at today if we didn't get our education first."
Having both graduated from high school and received college degrees, O'Neal and Gradkowski both felt fortunate to have their education "High school or college, if I wasn't doing well in the classroom, I couldn't play sports; I couldn't be on the field playing," said Gradkowski.
After the assembly, the players were able to sit down to sign autographs and spend some one-on-one time with the students to answer questions. A few of American High School's varsity football players stayed until the end to get some personal advice on their path to achievement.
One particular student had a real interest in what advice and influence these two players had for him. "Personally, I play football, so seeing people come in here like this, and seeing it's possible, opens up the door, and gives you hope to do well in school and keep your mind on the right track," said Adil. "It keeps you focused on what you are doing and lets you know it's possible."
Another student said, "It feels good; it makes our school feel a little better, because our school is not known for these kinds of things. And if feels good to hear their speeches, it's a great motivation."
The principal of American High School, Ron Leone, was thrilled these two players accepted his invitation to this assembly.
"I'm really pleased that The Oakland Raiders organization was willing to send a couple of players, especially these two individuals, because they had good stories about making choices in their life which enabled them to get to where they are today," said Leone. "These were the type of students we wanted to reach; the students that may not have been making the right choices so far in their high school career. And now, hopefully, they got some inspiration and maybe they'll start turning things around themselves."
No matter what the students' circumstances, situation, or goals, the message was for the students was clear: set a goal for yourself and plan to accomplish it. QB Bruce Gradkowski and FB Oren O'Neal enjoyed serving as role models for the students.