Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Launch Year Two of Mentorship Program

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off their second year of the Youth Leadership Program with both staff and player participants providing mentorship to local students.

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 18, 2021 - Students at Young Middle School work with their mentors during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youth Leadership program. Photo By Tori Richman/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Amidst a pandemic in 2020, the Buccaneers launched a first-of-its-kind mentorship program involving staff and players to help connect with local students at Young Middle Magnet School in Tampa. Though virtual, the program helped 25 middle-school-aged children learn from some of their favorite players on the field, as well as mentors that became friends from the front office bi-weekly video call sessions throughout last year.

The Buccaneers kicked off the second year of the team's Youth Leadership Program, a joint effort between Bucs players and staff to uplift students in East Tampa through mentorships, after-school support and community events. The program includes another 25 students and mentors, along with players like Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Bradley Pinion, Will Gholston, Cam Gill, Tyler Johnson, Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, Tristan Wirfs and Alex Cappa, and this time, staff mentors were able to meet with their mentees in person at Young Middle Magnet. The launch event was held Monday, as Bucs staffers met their young friends for the first time this year.

Mentors provide homework assistance, lend a friendly ear and help students navigate their school and home environment, while players take time on off days during the season to speak with students in small groups and breakout sessions.

Students at Young Middle School work with their mentors during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youth Leadership program.

The first event also included a virtual chat with players as the team was coming off a Thursday night win in Philadelphia. Students then got to the discussion topic of the evening: one's identity and the qualities and characteristics that make each individual special and unique. The students, staff and players then worked together in small groups to create logos and taglines that best represented their favorite personality traits before having the opportunity to present them to the larger group.

"It's always a great time, being able to FaceTime or zoom with them and go over different things just to hear their stories and their perspectives and just get to know them a little bit better," said safety Antoine Winfield Jr. "It's important because I mean they see us, but they don't know who we are. And so being able to have that like, intimate time with them so they can see our face and get to know us a little bit better. I feel like that's important and especially when we have a platform, it's good for them to see us doing some good for them so hopefully they inspire the next generation."

Students at Young Middle School work with their mentors during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youth Leadership program.

The Youth Leadership Program has been a focal point of the team's Social Justice Initiative, which supports year-round player efforts dedicated to achieving social justice through purposeful dialogue and impactful programs that effect positive change in the community and is just one of a few ways the Buccaneers are aiding Young Middle Magnet. Last year, it was actually Winfield Jr. who helped fund a new school store, where students can hang out and be rewarded for good grades and behavior. He matched the total of a fine he incurred in Super Bowl LV and gave it to the school. That amount was then matched by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Fund and staff mentors helped transform the permanent space in the offseason, along with their mentee helpers.

At the beginning of the 2021 season, the Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative donated more than $50,000 in new technology to the school to help bridge the digital divide and allow students more access to STEM resources. It included more than 100 brand-new digital devices.

"Technology is more important than ever before in enhancing processes for communication and learning, and the number one place we want to bridge the digital divide is in our schools," said Buccaneers Co-Owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. "These devices will have an immediate impact at Young Middle School, where we are proud to support the STEM curriculum through our Youth Leadership Program and improved technology, resources and mentorship that strengthen the student experience."

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