This summer, members of the Wagner College football team are studying leadership skills and their own professional identity by participating in a community internship and leadership course on campus that teams them up with three organizations on Staten Island: the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, Markham Gardens Non-Profit Community Center and Guyon Rescue.
The Atlas Foundation provides financial, legal and emotional support to individuals and organizations in need, focusing particularly on the needs of children. It was founded in 1997 by boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas to honor the memory of his father. In the spirit of Dr. Atlas, who provided free medical care to those who could not afford it and made house calls to give personal care to his patients until he was 80 years old, the Atlas Foundation attempts to ease the burden of the less fortunate among us.
"The Atlas Foundation-Wagner College partnership is very important to me," said Wagner College President Richard Guarasci. "Teddy's work in providing young men with the confidence to believe in themselves and aspire to a life of meaning and achievement is everything Wagner is about. It is a privilege to be a small part of the Atlas Foundation work. I also salute Markham Gardens and Guyon Rescue for the important work they do, and I am pleased that several Wagner student athletes are contributing their time to these organizations as well."
The melding of Wagner athletes with youths at the Atlas Foundation was spurred by a recent partnership formed between the college's Center for Leadership and Engagement, Athletics, and Career Development. They have developed a pilot program called MOVE, an acronym developed by Wagner junior wide receiver Anthony Carrington, which stands for Motivate, Overcome, Visualize and Empower. The program places student athletes in the community and allows time for them to study leadership, civic engagement and career skills.
"My teammates and I are really enjoying this opportunity," said Carrington, who joins fellow juniors Anthony Bullock, Jarrid Williams and Anthony Rivers and sophomore Anthony Castillo four days a week, from 5 to 8 p.m. "Basically, the kids range from 5 years old to 21, and it's pretty simple, really: They teach us how to box, and we teach them life skills that otherwise might not be available to them."
In addition to interacting with kids from the Atlas Foundation, Wagner student athletes are also connecting with children from the Markham Gardens Non-Profit Community Center as well as Guyon Rescue.
Markham Gardens, located on Mill Road, is a mixed-income community of rental apartments and for-sale homes located on 12 acres in West Brighton that contains a non-profit community center aimed at providing activities and a safe haven for Staten Island youth.
Guyon Rescue is a not-for-profit, 100 percent grassroots, volunteer, non-governmental organization providing immediate assistance to Staten Island families affected by Hurricane Sandy. In coordination with friends and donors across the country, Guyon Rescue provides food, supplies and disaster recovery assistance.
"It has been a privilege to work with these aspiring campus and community leaders," said Samantha Siegel, assistant director of Wagner's Center for Leadership and Engagement. "Our student athletes are discovering that the skills they have learned on the field are transferable to real life and can be used to teach others and make positive community contributions. These young men are transforming before my eyes, and I am learning so much from them in the process."
WAGNER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS GET AN EDUCATION
AS MENTORS TO STATEN ISLAND'S ATLAS BOXING KIDS
by CORMAC GORDON
It began simply enough, with a quick lunch between a college president and a boxing lifer in the back of the King’s Arms on Forest Avenue.
Teddy Atlas tossed out the idea to Dr. Richard Guarasci of some Wagner College athletes spending a little summer internship time with his Atlas Foundation.
Not your usual gig for college students, one of those rise-early, dress-in-real-clothes, get-familiar-with-a-copy-machine, sort of make-work jobs, the ESPN analyst said that day.
This was going to be something a little more real.
What the foundation had in mind was getting some football players to work with the dozens of young kids who every day squeeze into the sweaty old bandbox fight gym in the basement of the Park Hill Houses and the newer no-frills Atlas gym in the Berry Houses.
LIKED THE IDEA
If Wagner was game for the challenge, this was not going to be some fanciful few weeks with a Fortune 500 company. It would consist of mostly evening hours in airless rooms packed with at-risk kids.
What did Dr. Guarasci think of the proposal?
He had one question: “When can we start?”
“Our students do something like 80,000 hours of service every year, so this idea fit for us,” the Wagner president said earlier this week while three of those football players were working with teens and younger kids in Park Hill. “We believe that to be a fully educated citizen you have to be engaged in work for the social good. That’s how a democratic society is built.”
Originally, the thought was for the players to do a little one-on-one mentoring, a little weight training.
But really, it’s become more than that.
As so often happens in these situations, it turns out the football players, who have been at this mentoring thing for a couple of weeks now, are getting at least as much out of it as the kids they’re reaching out to.
“I thought we’d show up and the kids would ignore us,” said Wagner junior Anthony Carrington, a wide receiver and business major from Toms River, N.J. “This is their community, and we would have understood. But they greeted us with open arms.”
Why the welcome? Well, why wouldn’t these youngsters be happy to meet an interested, engaged college athlete, would be more the question.
Many of the Atlas kids probably have never met one before.
In fact, plenty of them are winging this growing-up thing basically on their own. They’re flying through the most critical part of life without a safety net. And, deep down, many are aware they will need all the help they can get.
The positive response from the kids in the program has given an education major like Wagner linebacker Jarrid Williams something to consider.
“Sometimes you lose sight of the passion someone needs to do something like this,” Williams, who hails from Poughkeepsie, said of the young boxers. “These kids remind me of that every time I come here, and I really respect them for it.”
The young boxers work out with the players. More importantly, they talk with them; about home and school, and who their favorite sports teams are. There’s a real give-and-take.
“Communication,” said Atlas. “That’s a huge thing for these kids.”
The physical aspect of fight training has been a genuine eye-opener for the Wagner players, who are finding out is that a speed-bag workout is great for hand-eye quickness, and that boxing footwork is perfect to add agility.
“Just watching them, I’m learning how to train in a way I never knew anything about,” said Carrington. “This is a different kind of thing that builds stamina and develops the skills you need to play football.”
SOURCE OF INSPIRATION
Williams, a burly 220-pounder, and his fellow linebacker Anthony Bulluck can’t get over the intensity level in the little gym.
“They’re teaching me,” Williams declared. “I work the heavy bag until I’m exhausted, and then I see these little kids working so hard even when no one is looking, and it makes me keep going.”
So, the question arises of these big, strong athletes:
Do you think there will come a time when you will actually put gloves on during this internship, and try a little sparring?
Wagner defensive coordinator Malik Hall, the program point man on the effort, wouldn’t mind seeing something like that.
“I believe boxing has a place in preparing to play football,” he said. “I told them if they get a chance to get into the ring, don’t be shy.”
Wagner College football players are teaming up with young local boxers to show them what it's like to be a student athlete. Players plan to spend the summer training with kids from the Atlas Cops and Kids gyms on Staten Island. Included in the story are Seahawk football players Anthony Rivers and Jarrid Williams.
New York 1 aired this story by reporter Patti Murphy on June 25.