Today, as part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative, the team launched the Buccaneers Youth Leadership Program, a first-of-its-kind commitment to provide support to students at Young Middle Magnet School in East Tampa. The announcement was accompanied by a video released by the Buccaneers including personal testimonies from cornerback and Social Justice Player Board member Carlton Davis and Young Middle Magnet School Principal Dr. Henrissa Berry on current social inequities and the program's goal to help bridge the gap for East Tampa students.
Launched in collaboration with Hillsborough County Public Schools, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Safe & Sound Hillsborough and City of Tampa Parks & Recreation, the program includes a comprehensive effort by the Buccaneers to engage with families in East Tampa through unique player and staff mentorships, leadership development and community outreach opportunities. It is a new component of the team's Social Justice Initiative, created in 2018 with a $1,000,000 commitment by the Glazer family to break down barriers to racial and social equality.
"The Buccaneers are dedicated to creating positive change in our community, and that begins with our youth," said Buccaneers Co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. "We want to provide students with the tools necessary to unlock their potential and achieve their goals. I am proud of this commitment from our players and staff to establish meaningful relationships and help empower Tampa Bay's next generation of leaders."
A joint effort between Buccaneers players and staff, the Buccaneers Youth Leadership Program includes a commitment from players and 25 staff members to serve as mentors for 25 Young Middle Magnet students. Young Middle Magnet, a Creative Science Centre in the heart of East Tampa, is a Title I school that specializes in hands-on learning through its STEM curriculum. Student mentees, ranging sixth, seventh and eighth grades, were identified by the school and matched with Buccaneers mentors who represent nearly every field throughout the organization, including scouting, football operations, sales, marketing and digital media.
Developing consistent, long-term relationships with Tampa Bay youths was a goal identified this year by the Buccaneers Social Justice Player Board, comprised of cornerback Carlton Davis, guard Ali Marpet, punter Bradley Pinion and tackle Donovan Smith. The Board helps spearhead important conversation and team engagement in social justice causes throughout the NFL and the Tampa Bay community.
"For over two years, the team's Social Justice Initiative has helped us learn more about the variety of issues that are at the root of systemic injustice," said Marpet. "We want to apply this understanding by building relationships with Tampa Bay youth that will help inspire these students, as well as everyone involved, to be stronger leaders."
"The impact that a mentor can have on someone, it's life-changing," said Davis. "We're excited to kick off this program as a Bucs family – all of us together – to create that change by being a positive influence with these students."
Beginning this week and continuing twice a month throughout the school year, players and staff will lead group workshops aimed at empowering the mentees to become leaders in their school and community. The virtual workshops will be moderated by Safe & Sound Hillsborough, a local non-profit dedicated to building strong families, safe schools and healthy neighborhoods, with a focus on areas where social problems have accumulated.
"This initiative will provide a unique growth experience not only for the students, but the mentors themselves," said Safe & Sound Hillsborough Executive Director Freddy Barton. "As we explore topics such as social justice, policymaking and service to others, all participants will be able to share their experiences and work together for a common goal…to help develop and support our future leaders."
A full-time Program Success Coach from Hillsborough Education Foundation will monitor attendance, academics, behavior and extra-curricular involvement while providing communication support between the mentors, students and parents. Each mentee will receive a variety of resources to support their academic needs, including a Buccaneers backpack, a mobile hotspot, school supplies and team gear. In keeping with COVID-19 protocols, workshop sessions this year will be virtual.
"We are grateful for the Buccaneers' partnership to help build equity in education by providing guidance and support to at-risk students in our community. This leadership program will give mentees the tools and resources they need to succeed in school and in life," said Hillsborough Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell.
In addition to group workshops, mentors and mentees will connect for a one-on-one session at least once a month. Studies have shown that students with a mentor are 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs, 52% less likely to skip a day of school, 55% more likely to enroll in college, and 81% more likely to participate in extra-curricular activities.
"Mentors are game-changers for our children," said Addison Davis, Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools. "We know these lasting relationships help to build self-esteem and bonds that continue throughout their educational journeys. We are grateful for community partners like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who repeatedly step up to show our students how much they care."
As additional support to students and families throughout the surrounding neighborhood, more than a dozen Buccaneers staff will participate in monthly after-school programs at three local community centers to assist with tutoring, athletics, activities in arts and technology and group discussions. In collaboration with City of Tampa Parks and Recreation, Buccaneers staff will also conduct community events in the East Tampa area, beginning the week of October 26 at Oak Park Community Center for the Buccaneers annual "Day of Service" supported by Jabil.
"The City of Tampa is no doubt a sports town and it's initiatives like these that really influence the next generation for the better," said Mayor Jane Castor. "As a former athlete myself, I can't tell you how important the mentorship of those who came before me played in my life. Thank you to the Glazers for your continued commitment to our great community."
Youth empowerment, police relations, criminal justice reform and workforce development have been focal points 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. This fall, the team has also launched BucsVote, a team campaign encouraging voter participation and civic engagement.