Operation Hope’s website explains the Banking on Our Future program: “Banking on Our Future elevates the dignity, hope, and economic self-sufficiency of people in low-wealth communities through financial literacy. Since its inception, this program has reached over 724,000 students in more than 700 schools and community-based organizations in the U.S. and South Africa.”
The school’s principal, Andy West, was thrilled to have the program at his school. “We are really excited to be working in partnership with Operation Hope Banking on our Future, the US Bank, and especially the Raiders, to come together to deliver some financial literacy sessions to the children, but also for them to have a wonderful time actually practicing their football skills out on the field,” said West.
Williams started off the program at Lazear Charter Academy by speaking to the students in an assembly about financial literacy and goal setting. “I told them they have a great opportunity to start with their financial future right now by learning how to write checks and manage their bank accounts and giving them some hope for the future,” explained Williams. “Right now, these kids, if they’re getting a head start, once they make money, they’ll know how to take care of it and it’ll last a lot longer.”
Following the assembly, Jennings and Williams visited classrooms to share their stories with the students. “My most important message was the consistency in doing what’s right as a kid,” said Jennings. “I stress a lot that I was that fat, chubby, dorky kid, the overlooked, didn’t have the best grades, but I never got in trouble outside of football,” said Jennings. “I’m 28 years old, I’ve never drank before, never smoked a day in my life, never been arrested. I constantly kept doing what was right and that gave me a chance. I just want them to understand the importance and simplicity of just doing what’s right.”
The students were excited to have the Raiders spend time in their classrooms and out on their field. “The kids were super excited. They were in love with the Raiders as soon as they stepped inside. They were ecstatic,” said Gregory Collins, Operation Hope Banking on Our Future Regional Program Manager.
Students had a chance to run around on the field with Jennings and practice their football skills. “It’s been fun. I got a chance to tackle some kids, let them try to run me over,” said Jennings. “It’s always humbling seeing a kid do what you do, try to mimic what it is that you’re doing because you remember that was you at some point in time. Again, there’s nothing special about me, I’m just in a special position and this reminds me.”
The day, anticipated by the students for over a week, was a success. “The children were just so excited starting from last week through to this week,” said West. “I don’t think they thought the day was actually going to come. [The guys have] been nice to the kids. They’ve been into classrooms to talk to them really about how to start working hard now to create a really stable future for yourself.”
West believes the Raiders visit will be something the students never forget. “My job as a principal is to establish a real strong community,” said West. “Although our job is to educate the children, as they get older [they] remember all those unique days, the field trip days, the days where they got to participate in school sports teams. Having the Raiders come to their school will be one thing they never ever forget and will last them for the rest of their lives.”
Jennings, like the Raiders organization, is committed to spending time in the local community. “It’s important because we’re in the National Football League. It’s an honor and it’s a privilege and for me it’s a duty to invest in kids’ lives,” said Jennings. “They’re sponges to us, whether we want it or not, it’s fact. For me personally, if I’m only remembered as a National Football [League] player, then I was a failure in life. And so I have to invest in people’s lives and make sure that I’m planting seeds for other people to water.”