The New York Jets presented a pair of checks, one for $200,000 and another for $150,000, to the New York City Department of Education and the Public Schools Athletic League football programs at Long Island City High School in Queens, NY, on Tuesday. Also contributing to the combined $350,000 donation were the NFL and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation New York City.
The money will be used for installing a new turf field at Long Island City High, creating new high school football teams at Frederick Douglass Academy and the Eagle Academy for Young Men II, reconditioning PSAL helmets annually, continuing the first-ever PSAL girls varsity flag football league, and supporting the CHAMPS middle school flag football program.
Jeff Engel, Long Island City assistant principal and athletic director, described the new synthetic playing surface as "a field of dreams." It will be used for physical education classes and all sports teams at the school of nearly 3,000 students.
"Everyone came together for the kids and built a wonderful field over the summer," Engel said. "Kids come out on a beautiful field in the middle of Long Island City to a field like any other suburban district would have."
The $200,000 going toward the new playing surface is part of $2.5 million in field grant awards allocated this year by the NFL Grassroots Program, a partnership between the NFL Foundation and LISC that has constructed or renovated 270 football fields nationwide. The foundation has granted more than $34 million toward these efforts in low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods since 1998.
As for the reconditioned helmets through the team's *Heads Up! *program, "It's very important," CB Darrin Walls said. "I think the big thing is just having those helmets redone every year and teaching those coaches how to instruct the players to tackle properly and how to do the right things to keep kids safe."
Walls was one of four Jets defenders to make the trip into the city for the ceremony. DE Muhammad Wilkerson, DT Leger Douzable and S Antonio Allen joined Walls to interact with the football players and represent the organization at the event.
"I hope I'm doing some type of good and hopefully someone can learn from me being here today," Allen said. "I'm just telling these kids it's in their hands whether they want to be successful or not. I was in the same situation out here not even knowing what I was playing for, but I told them to keep working hard, stay in school, and everything they've ever dreamed of will all come into play."
Majoring in social work at Temple, Wilkerson's always eager to give back to his community, especially when it involves helping out youth.
"Stay focused and don't get in trouble," he advised. By enabling these kids to spend their time playing sports, the New York Jets are providing them with an outlet to follow Big Mo's directive.
"Having sports keeps kids out of trouble and other stuff they might get into," Douzable said. "Now they're out here playing football and doing their schoolwork instead, so that's a great thing."
Eric Goldstein, chief executive officer of school support services for the Department of Education, recalled a saying that he associates with the Jets organization: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I'm only for myself, what am I?"
"The Jets are a football team, they're a business, and they need to do what they have to do," Goldstein said, "but they're not only for themselves, they're for the community. The continuing support that they give to our overall football program means football continues to exist and thrive in New York City."