Bucs players add support to Tampa ex-offender program
The program was born when players wanted to make a grassroots effort to address social injustice issues beyond the on-field kneeling during the national anthem. “These were things that were important to the players,” said Bucs co-owner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation president Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. “They are putting this together. They are leading this. Prisons, back-to-work, empowerment for people, this is something they are very interested in. … That’s the beautiful thing about this program. It’s player-led, so it’s whatever touches their passion individually. That’s why it’s going to be so true and authentic, and why it’s going to be so amazing.”The program’s first event took players to Tampa Police Department’s Citizens Academy, where they reenacted scenarios in which officers must make life-changing decisions quickly.
Tuesday’s visit took them to a much different side to the spectrum, listening to those who have served time in jail and now are trying to overcome the stigma being labeled as criminals. Through the Ready4Work program, clients go through a four-to-six week, five-time a week career development crash course, the first step of helping them get jobs and reunite with their families. The program began locally four years ago, and of the 800 clients, 500 have completed the career development program, said Abe Brown Ministries president and Ready4Work director Robert Blount. It can be a challenge to getting clients jobs. Candidates have a 70 percent placement rate ad a 70 percent retention rate of being on the job 90 days of longer, Blount said. Blount said having the Bucs players —seven players attended the event, including Social Justice player board members Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”
Justice player board members Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”
The player-led, year-round Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative — created with $1 million in matching funds from the Glazer family — has adopted the motto, “We are the change.” #Bucs #Buccaneers @Buccaneers @TB_Times @NFLSTROUD http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/2018/09/18/bucs-announce-social-justice-initiative/ …
Smith sat next to Kingson Aristil, who served 10 years in jail. Aristil, who ran track, cross country and played baseball at an Orlando high school, was incarcerated when he was 18. He is in his fourth week of the Ready4Work program, and looks forward to owning his own business one day.“For the first five years of my incarceration, I beat myself up about seeing guys I went to school with make it pro,” Aristil said. “A little bit of jealousy and envy went through me because I felt like I needed to be them. … Right now, in my life, I’m getting to a point of contentment. I’m happy seeing guys who are younger than me in the NFL doing what they need to do and coming back and giving back. I was broken. I was hurt. I thought I would never be able to compensate for the 10 years that I lost. My spirit feels at peace here. I feel humble here. I feel love.”
“Football and life parallels in a lot of ways,” the Bucs’ Donovan Smith said. “It’s about second chances. Every day, we’re given the chance to be our best. Unfortunately, in society, poorly-made decisions in people’s lives can kind of negate those chance. To come to a place where they are able to be in the path on their way back to normal society, it’s huge. We wanted to make it a point to be there and understand and sit down and talk with the people who are going through these things and hit it all. “Everybody goes through things,” he added, “Just hearing their stories and their similarities, it’s was lack of a better word, weird, because we are on two different ends to the spectrum, but we have similar backgrounds. It was just great to get here and hear the testimonies and just sit down one-on-one with them.
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