Elijah, 13, and the rest of the youngsters involved with the M3 Education Foundation had their after school snack in hand, and were patiently waiting for the arrival of their 'Raider Mentors;' wide receivers Johnnie Lee Higgins and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
"It means a lot that they can fit this into their schedule and come and talk to us," said Elijah. "This is stuff that we need to hear; its good information."
The M3 Education Foundation is a program that works with at-risk youth. The Foundation is aware of the challenges these kids face in motivating themselves to strive for excellence in education.
M3's focus is to create habits for success for its young boys. The willingness of these two Raider players to visit and chat with them, provided an opportunity to speak with successful young men who truly care about the kids' success.
KG Charles-Harris, founder of M3, was thrilled to have Heyward-Bey and Higgins come in and share their personal experiences.
"Essentially, what they have spoken about is everything they have to do," said Charles-Harris. "The discipline that is required, the hard work that is required, and the choices they have to make on a daily basis in order to reach where they want to reach, and maintain their position. I hope that our boys will understand that they didn't get there by accident or by chance; they actually worked hard at it and they are continuing to work hard at it. That's really what I would love them to understand, and I think they actually got that out of it."
Higgins realizes the difference he can make speaking to these young boys, and he can provide the motivation they may need to succeed.
"It's a blessing," said Higgins. "I get to share my life with kids and try to help push them in the right direction. We never had a big superstar or anybody come to my high school or junior high, so I feel blessed."
The main message that both Heyward-Bey and Higgins wanted to stress to these young men was about making the right decisions. "You never really know what's going to come to you in life," said Higgins. "You just have to deal with it. However, there is a right way to deal with it, and there is a wrong way to deal with it. You're going to make some mistakes, but you can't make a lot of crucial mistakes."
For Heyward-Bey, this was his first time participating in a Bay Area community event, and felt especially honored to be able to speak with the young men of the M3 Education Foundation.
"It's a great opportunity to come talk to the kids. They look at us like role models, and we recognize that, and we embrace it," said Heyward-Bey. "We try to speak from the heart and be as real as we can, because, I believe for kids, it's the only way they take it in. We've made good and bad decisions growing up, and understand that the good decisions that you do make, are going to catch up with you when you're older, which is a good thing."
By the looks in their eyes and the constant stream of questions for these two Raider players, you could tell they were heroes to these young men. "In the Bay Area, 73 percent of black boys drop out of school, and considering there is such a high drop-out rate, and such extreme poverty among black boys; the violence then comes with it," Charles-Harris said. "Having these guys talk to our boys about the choices they have made, what choices they wish they would have made, where they are right now, and how they got there; is gold. It is going to influence the boys in ways which are unimaginable."