It's 12 stories high and covers over half a city block in the heart of Brooklyn, N.Y. And on Tuesday Brooklyn Technical High School opened its doors to one of the Jets' rising stars.
Dustin Keller visited the specialized high school that has nearly 5,200 students. While stopping at the institution that was established in 1922, the Green & White's tight end addressed the high school football team and cheerleaders.
"It was cool. I'm glad that I'm at a school that has kids with a whole bunch of energy," Keller said. "They're extra wild in here. It's real loud and it's real fun. I tried to hit the main points of why it's important to eat a good breakfast, a good school lunch, and I kind of got the point across to them. They're a bunch of great kids."
The purpose of the visit was to assist a sweepstakes project that will encourage students to fill out their meal applications for free and reduced-price lunches. Because many of the students at Brooklyn Tech would be entitled to that financial assistance, the public school system needs their forms to be filled out in order to receive the proper government funding. To get the kids invigorated, Keller addressed the students and then got into a funny question-and-answer session.
"It's really electric, as you can see from the reception that the kids gave him," said Eric Goldstein, New York City Department of Education CEO of SchoolFood, Transportation and PSAL. "To have an NFL star come into their school on this particular day to talk to them about his life, what it's like in the NFL, what it's like to grow up, how to eat to be strong and smart — the kids are just all over themselves, so much so they invited him to a home game."
As a part of the sweepstakes, one of the students will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii in January. Confidently, Keller said he would be making a trip out to Honolulu. If all goes well with the Jets, however, Keller instead will be preparing for a Super Bowl opponent that weekend. In all of his messages, Keller impressed Goldstein and Kathleen Grimm, NYC deputy chancellor of operations.
"It was so exciting," Grimm said. "To be here today and have Dustin Keller come out and talk to the football team and the cheerleaders, he was just wonderful. He was inspiring and he was really so down to earth. The children just loved him. The New York Jets have been wonderful. They're so generous with their time, with their players, and have really given us so much support."
Goldstein has been intricately involved with the Jets organization and called Woody Johnson's organization the most generous and best team to work with in the New York City area. Earlier this season he was present for Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery's appearance at KIPP Academy in the Bronx to help the Jets donate $150,000 to the PSAL, and on Tuesday he was in attendance to facilitate the school lunch program and remarked on the relationship he's had with the Green & White.
"Without the partnership we have with the Jets," Goldstein said, "we wouldn't be able to do a good number of the things we're able to do. Whether it's with nutrition or it's with football, it's just for us a very important partnership."
Coming from Lafayette, Ind., the college town that is home to his alma mater, Purdue, Keller joked that he was a "country boy" in comparison to the "city folk" that populate Brooklyn Tech. Despite the slight culture gap, the 2008 first-round pick was able to connect with the kids who asked him a wide variety of questions — from technical football questions to his personal life. Throughout it all, Keller was intent on convincing the students to put their nutrition and health at the top of their priority list before signing autographs to what appeared to be a never-ending line of students.
"Being a part of the school food program is really important to me," Keller said. "It's another opportunity to give back and I know it's something that is really important not only to the New York City kids but to kids all over the country. Especially today, it's something where kids don't get out and play as much as they used to so it makes having a great diet that much more important. If I can do anything to help these kids, I just want to be able to do that so I'm taking every opportunity that I can."