Dozens of students from across D.C. and Prince George’s County, along with their parents and volunteers, met at FedEx Field for a new program born out of a partnership between the Washington Commanders Charitable Foundation, Hustlers Guild and Beyond Your Block DMV for “Hustle Up: 360 Athlete Experience.”
At their June 28 program, skills training was provided for youth impacted by gun violence across the Washington metropolitan area. Lessons were taught to reinforce the importance of health and wellness and provide students with the tools needed to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.
After some NFL trivia, comedian Rodney “Red” Grant and D.C. Council member Trayon White (D, Ward 8), prepared the kids for a day of activity and learning.
Grant, who described himself as one of the biggest Commanders fans in the country, said the students were there to have a good time and be educated at once.
“We’re here for you guys to have fun and to learn something today,” he said. “Eyes front. Today is a special day. Who’s ready to meet the players,” Grant said, to which the students, along with some parents, cheered.
Grant then spoke about his program to expand the horizons of city youth and to offer encouragement. His organization, Beyond Your Block DMV, is dedicated to providing significant experiences for city youth and they have previously taken students to local baseball and basketball games along with Virginia’s Luray Caverns and the Jamestown Settlement.
The Department of Education, in a research paper, stated “Field trips offer an opportunity to motivate and connect students to appreciate and understand classroom concepts, which increase a student’s knowledge foundation, promoting further learning and higher level thinking strategies. With understanding comes confidence and intrinsic motivation.”
Further, Grant expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “We are excited to join forces with the Commanders and other stakeholders to create a powerful catalyst of positive engagement, growth, and self-discovery.”
The Washington Commanders Charitable Foundation also emphasized the importance of the partnership.
“Together, by supporting technical advancements in schools and providing youth resources, access and training, I am excited to see the change that we can facilitate for the greater Washington, D.C. area,” said Valerie Biberaj, vice president of Community Relations, and executive director of the Washington Commanders Charitable Foundation.
Yasmin Salina, co-founder and executive director of the The Hustlers Guild (HG), a nonprofit, social impact organization created to expose students of low-income households to careers in entertainment, said such opportunities can be “life-changing.”
“Opportunities like this … will help transform their views on self-regulation and decision-making to ensure they succeed in and outside of the classroom. The Washington Commanders’ support shows their commitment to our local youth at such a critical time where gun violence is on the rise,” said Salina.
White said he had dreams of the NFL at their age. After suffering injuries, White pivoted from athletic stardom to using his smarts to get ahead.
“Being an athlete is important, but if you don’t focus on being a student, you won’t be an athlete for long. It’s called student-athlete,” he said. “I started listening to my coaches and my family members, and they gave me wisdom– wisdom I use every day as a council member in D.C. We believe in you, despite obstacles against you.”
Skills and Social Training
Students were broken up into groups, one to do athletic drills and one to learn about social and emotional learning.
As part of the training, 100 youth participants met with Washington Commanders coaching staff, executive leaders, and alumni football players to discuss their experiences with gun violence and participate in workshops centered around social and emotional learning, effective communication, health and wellness, mental toughness and athletic endurance.
“The highlight of the day was the mock press interview workshop, where I got a chance to ask questions and learn about the experiences of retired professional football players. Marcus Smith is legit and dropped a bunch of gems,” said Sevyn Evans, a local high schooler, who participated.