The Bengals organization and players donated $300,000 to support four programs as part of the NFL social justice initiative. The programs focus on poverty and reducing barriers to opportunity, with a priority on supporting improvements in education and economic advancement and community and police relations.
Five players on the Bengals Positive Impact Committee – QB Andy Dalton, CB Darqueze Dennard, DE Carlos Dunlap, DE Michael Johnson and LB Vincent Rey – led the fundraising efforts and helped select the programs to support. Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn and vice president of player personnel Paul Brown, along with a group of staff members, also participated in committee meetings.
"Our players do a lot of great things in the community and we're pleased to take advantage of this league program to expand the work we do in the Greater Cincinnati area," said Blackburn.
BENGALS POSITIVE IMPACT COMMITTEE QUOTES
Dalton said: "One of the big things we wanted to do as players and an organization is make an impact on our community. We found several organizations that fit where we wanted to help and we were able to make a donation to help further the programs they have in place."
Dennard said: "Cincinnati is our home most of the year. Guys not only donated money, but they want to donate their time as well and make sure we can show the community we're here for them just like they're here for us on Sundays."
Dunlap said: "It's our community as players and as a team. Being able to collaborate and being on the committee to see how we can effect positive change is a step in the right direction."
Johnson said: "It was humbling and an honor to serve on the committee. We did a good job of raising funds. I'm proud of the guys who stepped up and so you want to make sure those go to a good cause and I think we did a good job in selecting the programs."
Rey said: "That money is going to have a substantial impact in our community. That's my reason for not just playing, but living. Everything I do, I want to be an asset and not a liability. Whether it's on this football team, whether it's in my own family, whether it's in my community, I want to leave a place better than I found it. And through this social justice initiative, that's what it's doing."
CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT AND CINCINNATI RECREATION COMMISSION'S DIVE RIGHT YOUTH FLAG FOOTBALL PROGRAM
The Bengals are partnering with the Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati Recreation Commission to present the Dive Right Youth Flag Football program. Dive Right, which stands for "Diversity Done the Right Way," is designed to ground young people in our community with the concepts of team culture by exploring the ideals of diversity, implicit bias and conflict resolution. Other organizations involved in the program include Youth at the Center, Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Cincinnati Youth To Work and No Excuses College Tours & Programs.
"We are happy to provide an opportunity for youth to engage in a program that will allow them to take the information they've learned back to their communities, schools and family," said Cincinnati Police Department Officer Eddie Hawkins. "Thank you to the Cincinnati Bengals players and organization for believing in what we do and allowing us to continue to do the work to empower young people with knowledge so they can be the change we want to see."
CITY GOSPEL MISSION'S CAREERS PLUS PROGRAM
City Gospel Mission will use the funds to expand its Careers Plus program, a 10-week initiative that helps juniors and seniors at inner city high schools navigate a successful career path after graduation. Careers Plus teaches students life skills and job skills, helps them find a job and engages parents. The funds will enable the program to add two schools for the 2019-20 school year, bringing the total number of schools served to seven. The program currently serves Western Hills, Taft, Aiken, C.C.P.A., and Shroder.
"The generosity of the Bengals organization and players is going to change the life course for many students who need help transitioning to a career because they're not going to college or are unsure of college," said Roger Howell, President of City Gospel Mission. "Many of these students have obstacles and hardships to overcome, so it's important that they have steady guidance and role models like the Bengals players."
Founded in 1924 by James N. Gamble of Procter & Gamble, City Gospel Mission empowers hurting and homeless men and women and at-risk youth to break the cycle of poverty and despair by providing relationship-focused programs and services pertaining to: food and shelter, addiction recovery, jobs, and youth development. City Gospel Mission annually serves 6,800 adults and 3,500 youth with the help of 2,500 volunteers. To learn more, visit citygospelmission.org.
ACTIVITIES BEYOND THE CLASSROOM'S ACADEMIC & ATHLETIC ACCOUNTABILITY PATHWAY
Activities Beyond the Classroom will use the funds to support the Academic & Athletic Accountability Pathway (AAA Pathway) in partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools. The AAA Pathway program provides mentoring and resources to student athletes throughout CPS high schools. The goal is to help students perform at their grade level, graduate from high school and understand their options beyond high school, whether that is college, the military or the workforce. AAA Pathway also helps 11th and 12th grade students prepare for post-graduation, with resources such as ACT Bootcamp Training, athletic-specific college resources and more.
Brian Leshner, Executive Director of Activities Beyond the Classroom, said, "We are very grateful to the Bengals and the players for their support of AAA Pathway. This districtwide initiative takes a holistic approach to helping students prepare for life beyond high school. The Bengals players actively mentoring and supporting CPS's athletes will go a long way in setting these student athletes up for success."
Activities Beyond the Classroom is a nonprofit that creates and manages more than 200 athletic and cultural extracurricular programs and activities, ranging from foreign languages to team sports, for more than 15,000 Cincinnati Public Schools students every year. ABC has a strong and longstanding partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools that includes management of high school athletics throughout much of the district. Visit www.abccincy.org to learn more.
LIFE LEARNING CENTER'S SCHOOL OUTREACH PROGRAM
Life Learning Center delivers a holistic, integrated continuum of education and care to help "at-risk" citizens step up to their highest potential. The Center's 12-week program teaches individuals how to address barriers in all domains of life: physical, relational, emotional, spiritual and financial. The individuals learn how to secure and sustain a better way of living through gainful employment, working to change their future for the better.
Life Learning Center recently teamed up with NaviGo and Children's Inc. to embark on an initiative that will bring a version of this 12-week program into the lives of middle school and high school students in Northern Kentucky.
"To have the support of the Bengals in this community and the generosity of these players is absolutely amazing," said Alecia Webb-Edgington, President of Life Learning Center. "The work that they do and their commitment to the Greater Cincinnati area and for us in Northern Kentucky, we cannot be more thankful for what they've done for us."