Work hard. Dream big. Do those two things, and you can achieve anything you put your mind to.*
That message was crystal clear and set the theme for the day on Tuesday morning in downtown Tampa, as Glazer Family Foundation Co-President Darcie Glazer Kassewitz and quarterback Jameis Winston hosted a Buccaneers Academy Educational Huddle at Curtis Hixon Park for nearly 100 underserved youths.
"Today is an exciting day for our entire organization because we are here to celebrate and showcase the longstanding commitment that the Buccaneers have to education for underserved students," said Glazer Kassewitz.
The participating students were all from Buccaneers Academy schools – 24 Hillsborough County schools adopted by the Buccaneers through a curriculum-based program that engages more than 14,000 students and encourages learning. As the "Quarterback" of the Buccaneers Academies – a majority of which are located in economically-distressed areas – Winston's dedication to inspiring children and helping youths reach their full academic potential is often on display, as it was on Tuesday.
"This means a lot to me because I have a nine-year-old brother who looks up to me every day," said Winston. "And being the 'Quarterback' of the Buccaneers Academy gives me so many other little brothers and sisters that look up to me every single day that I have to help motivate and I have to be doing the right thing to help inspire them and lead them the right way."
With students from nearly every Buccaneers Academy school in attendance, Winston and Glazer Kassewitz welcomed local teachers, officials and community members to the event in front of the super-sized Buccaneers Academy shade structure recently donated by the team. The oversized shade structure, which debuted in November and is currently covering the Tampa Downtown Partnership's Winter Village, is a symbol of the team's passion for children and education and representative of the court-sized shade structures constructed at every Buccaneers Academy.
"It's important for the Buccaneers Academies so the students can have somewhere to play, somewhere to get outside and have some activity," said Winston. "It gives them an opportunity to play at any time."
Speaking on the organization's long-standing commitment to Hillsborough County students and school administrators, Glazer Kassewitz shared with the group many of the Buccaneers Academy components that leave a lasting impact on students. From curriculum-based programming that engages students and encourages learning, to inspirational visits from players and cheerleaders, to special invitations to attend Buccaneers home games, the Buccaneers Academy has provided students with the resources and incentives necessary to allow them to reach their academic goals.
"It's fundamental to my family," said Glazer Kassewitz. "It's the way we were raised. Kids are everything. You can become anything you put your mind to and that is a philosophy that the Buccaneer Academies are built on."
Just as he does on Sundays at Raymond James Stadium, Winston quickly became the center of attention after being introduced and delivered a memorable and inspirational address that is likely to resonate for many years with his young audience. Stressing the importance of hard work, determination, and accomplishing one's goals, the Buccaneers signal caller made it clear that his journey to becoming an NFL quarterback took perseverance and an unflinching belief in himself.
"Raise your hand if you've ever had a dream," said Winston. "How many people think that they can achieve that dream? Every one of you all has your hands raised and you're exactly right. Dreams, they're not unachievable, they're just there for us to take. We have to wake up and go take them."
The inspirational message made an impression on many of the principals and educators in attendance, who watched in admiration as Winston connected with the students.
"The students have to have something to believe in," said Carisa Spires, principal of Kenly Elementary School. "When Jameis talked about dreaming big, that is encouraging our students to think above and beyond the galaxy of what their potentials are in life and what they can do. It was very motivational and it allows our students, from all different walks of life, to see that you, too, can make it happen – but you have to have your eyes on the prize."
Included amongst the day's activities was a visit from the Glazer Family Foundation Vision Mobile, which has provided vision screenings to more than 66,000 students and distributed nearly 10,000 free prescription glasses to children in need. As part of Tuesday morning's student-focused program, Glazer Kassewitz presented three special students with their brand new eyeglasses. The scene was similar to the one carried out at Buccaneers Academies every week, continually enhancing children's ability to learn and grow during this critical stage of development.
As Winston wrapped up the session with football drills and exercise activities for the students – an example of the Player Experience carried out at the schools throughout the season – the scene truly showcased what the Buccaneers Academy initiative is all about.
"It takes an entire village to achieve success for all students," added Spires. "So for me, to have the Buccaneers as a partner, it means a tremendous amount of support and a tremendous amount of celebration for the students. With the Buccaneers being a part of us it shows the students that yes, you're in elementary school, but look where you can go in life."
Tuesday's event is another initiative of Bucs for a Better Bay, the team's far-reaching commitment to making Tampa Bay better today and for generations to come. Focused on student development, the organization remains dedicated to providing the resources critical to educational success.