An EDDIE Educational Visionary award winner, Derrick Brooks was nominated for the honor by members of his 'Brooks Bunch'
Music has the Grammys. Actors take home Oscars. In television, it's the Emmys.
If you work for or with Hillsborough County Public Schools, the top prize is an EDDIE.
On Wednesday, April 17, the Hillsborough Education Foundation hosted their 12th annual EDDIE (Excellence, Dedication, Devotion, In Education) awards ceremony. Among the EDDIE nominees in the Educational Visionary category was Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.
The EDDIE awards are a way for the Hillsborough Education Foundation to recognize both individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond the norm in their dedication to academic excellence.
Brooks was nominated for his work with the Boys & Girls Club through his "Brooks' Bunch" program.
The Pro Bowl linebacker is currently in his seventh year sponsoring "Brooks' Bunch," a group of Boys & Girls Club members that he adopted almost immediately after signing with Tampa Bay as a first-round draft pick in 1995. "Brooks' Bunch" kids, who live and go to school in some of Tampa's most underprivileged neighborhoods, have become an integral part of Brooks' life.
Over the years, Brooks has created many different programs that give "Brooks' Bunch" children opportunities they would not otherwise have. He purchases tickets for 24 Boys & Girls Club members to attend every Buccaneers home game and he spends much of his free time playing games, tutoring and mentoring the kids at the club. One of the most unique aspects of the "Brooks' Bunch" program is the educational field trips through which Brooks rewards Boys & Girls Club members who have exhibited hard work and good behavior in school.
For the five months leading up to each trip, members of the Ponce De Leon and Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs who are interested in earning a spot on the trip study the history of the part of the world that they will be traveling to. To earn a spot on the trip, students are required to write essays, perform various research assignments and present a final essay to a panel of judges. All assignments, along with the students' attendance and behavioral marks during the classes, are tabulated and count towards a final grade for the class. Students who complete their assignments, demonstrate good behavior and maintain their grades in school earn a ticket. So far, Brooks has taken kids on trips to Ft. Lauderdale, Atlanta, Washington D.C., South Africa and the American West.
The evening began with the presentation of the Communities in Schools Group and Individual awards and the Creativity award, while Brooks sat patiently waiting to hear his name called.
If Brooks was wondering whether he was going to be a winner, there were certainly enough signs to point to that likelihood. The theme for this year's awards ceremony was "A Celebration of Heroes in Education," and prior to the announcement of the Educational Visionary award the EDDIEs high school performers sang the song, "Hero".
That tune, which symbolically summed up the role Brooks plays in the lives of his "Brooks' Bunch" kids, was the perfect prelude to his name being announced as the winner of the Educational Visionary award.
Brooks heard more than just his own name. As the announcement was made, four "Brooks' Bunch" members who were in attendance – Cyndi Bailey, Michael Sales, Natasha Spencer and Lazandra Young – erupted into cheers.
At the podium, Brooks took time to thank everyone that played a part in his success.
"I would like to God for blessing me and giving me the means to accomplish my goals," he said. "I would also like to thank Martha Ford and all the teachers that helped me with the program. I would also like to thank the Buccaneers Community Relations staff and all of the people who have worked with me from the Boys & Girls Clubs. I couldn't have done this without your help."
Brooks had also just found out that the kids he had helped mentor were the people responsible for nominating him for the Visionary award. He touched on that important fact during his acceptance speech.
"Finding out that I was nominated by the kids makes this award even more special," said Brooks. "Knowing that I have touched their lives in a meaningful way is just a special feeling."
Ford, the Middle School Social Studies Supervisor for Hillsborough County, who has been highly involved with the "Brooks' Bunch" program, also talked about what it meant for Derrick to win the award.
"It was an amazing thing," said Ford. "I was sitting with the kids and they were just amazed at the speech that Derrick gave and the fact that he was so touched that they were the ones that nominated him. That's the thing about Derrick, he has his priorities straight and I know that he gets just as much out of working with the kids as they get from working with him."
After the awards ceremony, Brooks again touched on what the award meant to him.
"I'm grateful any time I can win an award for helping change peoples lives in a positive way," he said. "It's always special. These are the things you can achieve when you make education a priority."
Brooks also talked about winning the award on the eve of his 29th birthday.
"It's a nice present," he said with a smile. "A nice early gift from the EDDIEs and the kids."
In addition to the award received by Brooks, Buccaneers Student Advisory Board Members John Dicks and Christopher Sampson received scholarships. Dicks received the Arts Council of Plant City Scholarship, while Sampson received the Jerry Waterman Scholarship.
For more information on how you can become a Buccaneer Student Advisory Board Member, call 813-870-2700 ext. 274. Applications for the 2002-2003 Student Advisory Board are currently being accepted.