Veteran DE Justin Tuck and his wife, Lauran, kicked off the seventh year of their Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy program at Alliance Academy in Oakland Tuesday morning. Focused on literacy and the distribution of books, the program has provided more than 77,000 books to 13,000 students in New York, New Jersey and Alabama.
"Me and my wife started Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy in 2008 because at that time we had done so much through charity work but we didn't have anything to call our own," said Justin. "We're very passionate about kids; we're very passionate about education and we really wanted to do something that was all encompassing of that. So we felt as though literacy was a number one stumbling block for kids and a true great educational blueprint, so that's why we started it."
The Tucks hope to motivate and support students through the advocacy of education and literacy. A book was provided to each Alliance Academy student. The students will be asked to write an essay about self-confidence and the top two will get the opportunity to attend a Raiders game and meet the players.
"We know education is an equalizer," said Justin. "Education can take you wherever you want to be."
The kickoff event was Justin's first in Oakland he was excited about making an impact in his new community. "This is our first California school, our first Oakland school. I'm excited about it because the kids are very excited about it," he said. "You want to give these kids the same opportunities that my parents gave me. A lot of people believed in me and that's one of the reasons why I've been able to be successful, so I'm just trying keep that going and do the same thing for them as so many people have done for me."
Photo by Tony Gonzales
While Justin's main focus is on the field, the work he does off the field holds a special place in his heart. "It's always been a passion of mine to give back to the community that has given so much to me and that hasn't changed. I'm new to Oakland and you guys have welcomed me with wide-open arms and made the transition pretty seamless," said the veteran. "It's important for me to have some kind of service or community service in the area that I play in and that won't change. Oakland is a great area because there are so many kids out here that want to do great things with their lives. They were asking me questions like why is education important and why are you doing this and things of that nature – it lets me know they have a hunger to do something great in themselves. I'm just glad, in some way, I can be a part of that."
Both Justin and Lauran hope that their program can be an extra push in the right direction for the students at Alliance Academy. "We are here today because we believe in you," Lauran Tuck told the students. "You guys are the future of our country and our world and your education is important. My husband and I are so proud of our college educations…we know that it's important for you guys to take your education seriously. What you're doing now matters."
Justin pushed the students to believe in themselves and continue to pursue their dreams, regardless of obstacles standing in their way. "The only person that can stop you from doing something is you," Justin said to Alliance Academy. "We have no excuses. If you want to be a nurse, you want to be a doctor, if you want to be the next President of the United States, if you want to be a lawyer, you want to be a basketball player… if you want to do anything in life, the only person that can stop you from doing that is you."
While it is up to the students to pursue their goals, the Tucks want to be there to help them along the way. "I think the biggest thing for a lot of these kids is having people that truly believe in them, will truly go out of their way to tell them that they can do whatever they want to do in life," said Justin. "And that goes a long way. I think a lot of times people don't understand the power of words and the power of motivation and the power of just having that person in your corner. Regardless of what adversity you go through, you can always reach back to that and find some kind of just joy or pure emotion to push you through whatever adverse time you're going through, so that's exciting."
Tuck's R.U.S.H. for Literacy is now coast-to-coast and on its way to making a difference in the Oakland community.