This Heisman Hype is for Real!

There is nothing more worthwhile and rewarding than making a difference in the life of a young person. We are fortunate enough here at the AthLife Foundation to witness incredible coaches and educators across the country impact and inspire kids day-in and day-out. In tough educational environments, talented educators and students need teammates that are both loyal and supportive. We have been fortunate enough to have that kind of teammate in the Heisman Trophy Trust.

Since 2012, the Heisman Trophy Trust’s support of our mission has been unwavering and as a result, the students that we collaboratively serve have responded. As you analyze the statistics from all the Heisman Trophy front runners in the next week or so, we welcome you to keep an eye out on our social media this week and next for a look at the life-changing impact that the most prestigious award in college football has produced for over 1500 kids across New York City and New Jersey!

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Canaries Get Prepped for Life Beyond the Playing Field

Former Penn State and NFL tight end, Brett Brackett, visited William Allen High School Wednesday afternoon and delivered a valuable message to 25 student athlete football players about utilizing LinkedIn as a powerful resource to prepare for college and future careers.

Brett was a standout football player at Penn State, where he was the captain his senior year. He signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2011 and played in the NFL until 2014. Since then, Brett has been teaming up with the career development arm of AthLife to help develop his own path.

The group learned the basics of LinkedIn by identifying transferable skills from athletics and networking etiquette. Currently, student athletes are building their own LinkedIn profile in preparation for the next step beyond high school. Allen High School Sophomore Heiro Valdez-Rosario really enjoyed the experience, “Meeting a former NFL player like Brett, and learning about how to prepare for life after football proves that great achievements are always possible through hard work.”

Reflecting on the experience Brackett stated, “Today I had the privilege of getting to know a great group of student athletes at William Allen High School. Some day, all athletes stop playing organized sports, but the tools they build while playing can provide them with the intangibles needed to excel in the future.”

The opportunity was created through the AthLife Foundation and William Allen High School ‘s student athlete development program, S.O.A.R., which is now in it’s seventh year of operation. According to Academic Athletic Coach Melissa Roehrich “One of our goals is to prepare students to be lifelong learners who are active in their communities. Teaching them to use online resources in a professional manner helps to develop those skills.”

Junior, Jahnai Harry summed up, “Through what we learned today, Brett helped a new generation of Allen Football aspire to do great things!”

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Husky Leaders Meet the Leopards

On Wednesday February 15th, the AthLife Foundation hosted freshmen student athletes from Dieruff High School at Lafayette College. Twelve students were given the opportunity to tour the college, to have dinner on campus, and to attend a Division 1 men’s basketball game. This valuable exposure was aimed at helping student athletes understand and recognize their responsibilities when striving to obtain the ultimate goal of attending college.

At the beginning of the visit, the AthLife Foundation Interns gave the students a tour of the college, which took them to various academic buildings, dining halls, and residence halls. This allowed the students to grasp a better understanding of the college atmosphere. During the tour, the students were made aware of the adjustments needed to be made in order to be successful in college.

After their tour and their dinner in the campus cafeteria, the students attended a panel discussion that consisted of Lafayette Student Athletes from the volleyball, football and tennis teams. This discussion enabled the kids to hear from current college athletes about their experiences and more importantly on what it takes to thrive in both academics and athletics at the collegiate level. One of the topics discussed was the importance of being goal oriented.

Robin Cepeda, a senior football player at Lafayette, explained that a huge part of achieving a goal is falling in love with “the process on the way and dedicating the time to reach it”. He stressed, “Making a habit of the little things is extremely important in order to gain positive results.” Robin made it clear to the high school students that even when times are rough, there is always a chance to achieve a goal.

Draeland James, another football player at Lafayette, continued to discuss his process of training to reach the college level. He made the point to the students, “Never “stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done because there are no shortcuts to success.”  He continued, “hard work does not go unnoticed and will pay off in the future, even if it does not seem that way in the moment.”

After the panel discussion, the students attended a Lafayette Men’s basketball game to see firsthand what it is like to perform as a Division 1 athlete. This entire experience enabled the students the ability to visualize what it would be like to attend a small liberal arts college like Lafayette. The AthLife Foundation hopes that this experience will inspire the Dieruff students to become actively engaged in planning for their futures  and to stay motivated in achieving their goals.

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Talented Educators Invade the Big Apple

On February 13th, Heisman Academic Impact Schools led the AthLife Foundation Mid Year Training, which 25 participants from eight AthLife Foundation Schools attended, along with several partner organizations. The training, which occurred at LinkedIn Headquarters in the Empire State Building, helped strengthen network connections and establish innovative ideas for the future.

The training consisted of presentations from Move This World, UP2US, LinkedIn, and AthLife Foundation Staff. The first workshop was presented by Caitlin Daly from Move This World, and the discussion dealt with tapping into each individual’s creative potential in order to help individuals understand, engage, express, and manage their emotions. Ben Schornack from UP2US led the second presentation, which discussed the importance of incorporating service learning into academic programs.

The third session was led by Kyle Dunnington from LinkedIn. His presentation focused on the relevance of LinkedIn to the high school population and how to best help kids take advantage of LinkedIn’s resources as a high school student and into their college and early career years.

The last strategy session, led by Joseph Baratta of Curtis High School, provided an opportunity for an interactive dialogue in which academic athletic coaches were able to provide snapshots of their incredible programs. These talented educators shared not only best practices but communal challenges that they are determined to overcome as well.


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The Purple Pact Goes Green!

Do not let our name fool you! Yes, we are the Purple PACT, but we are also very green! Westhill High School’s greenhouse and garden epitomizes that concept. Because of the hard work from Viking student athletes, our garden was filled with various types of flowers, 14 different types of veggies, and countless herbs. It’s clear their strength is just as useful off of the field as it is on! They helped by taking on various jobs such as filling and dumping heavy wheelbarrows, shoveling, turning the ground, planting, watering, and harvesting.

Our philosophy is that health is attained through three areas: fitness, diet, and most importantly, the mind. When all three are working in unison, you are able to reach your highest potential. Because of this, we strive towards offering opportunities for our student athletes in each area. Fitness is attained during their sport, but the garden and the greenhouse allows us to go beyond. We have had guest speakers present on nutrition and on the concept of farm-to-table. During the presentation athletes observe and ask questions while a recipe is being made with the produce from the garden. At the end of the day, they are able to eat the final product. All recipes are simple with the goal of having the student athletes feel comfortable enough to recreate it at home.  

 Our student athletes are involved in a process bigger than themselves. All extra produce and recipes will be donated to local homeless shelters and soup kitchens. They will come to learn that life is full circle; that by nurturing and loving a seed it will then begin to provide back to them and their community. They will witness this first hand when the same plants they cared for will go towards helping to fill an empty stomach.

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The Heisman Trophy Trust's Impact Rolls On

“Being at the Heisman Trophy Award Dinner was an amazing experience. It helped me to remember that it takes a team effort to accomplish anything great, and that the effort you put into something directly effects what you get out of it.” – Ibraheem Ayinde, Class of 2019, Hyde Leadership High School

In what has become a remarkable annual holiday gift, academic athletic coaches and student athletes attended the 82 Annual Heisman Dinner Gala in New York City on Monday, December 12th, at the Times Square Marriott Marquis.

This is our 5th year partnering with the Heisman Trophy Trust, and with each passing year, the impact grows.  In 2016-17, the AthLife-Heisman footprint covers nine (9) high schools and 1,100+ kids largely from NYC. Each year, several of our schools have the opportunity to attend the gala.

Curtis High School (Staten Island, NY), Maxwell CTE High School (Brooklyn, NY), and Hyde Leadership High School (Bronx, NY) represented The AthLife Foundation at the event. This was Hyde Leadership and Maxwell CTE’s first year attending. Two students and two faculty from each school were able to participate in the nights festivities among college football legends.

“Our student athletes were thrilled to be at the Heisman Trophy Award Dinner, and it was an inspirational experience for all of us. It gave our students a whole new perspective on athletics and leadership, and demonstrated that being an athlete is about more than being great on the field, but contributing positively to humanity.” – Jordan Likness, Academic Athletic Coach

Our mission is fueled by an unwavering belief in human potential.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. & Willie Brown Middle School Forge New Frontiers


The AthLife Foundation is proud to introduce the first two middle school programs partnered with our industry leading national platform: Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School and Willie Brown Middle School of the San Francisco Unified School District. Both schools exhibit outstanding support for their student athletes through the creation of critical Academic Athletic Support Staff positions.  These caring adult mentors develop high impact programming that use the often untapped educational platform of sport to affect change.

It is exciting to expand our efforts to these two middle schools, as both are feeder schools to Phillip A. and Sala Burton High School’s PUMA Academy, currently in it’s third year of partnership with the AthLife Foundation.

This was made possible because of the tremendous vision of the YMCA Bayview Beacon Program and the AthLife Foundation’s Bay Area Board Members. Peter Wagner, an Academic Support Specialist, and Prasant Nukalapati, the Beacon Center Director, have been major catalysts to getting the programs up and running.

Official name: Student-Athlete Academy (S-AA)

Key Components: The Bayview Beacon’s Student-Athlete Academy is an after school program that is open to student athletes who are driven to succeed in the classroom. This year-round program supports each student by providing them with academic support, leadership skills, and motivation to build the community that surrounds them. The program offers an environment conducive for individuals to complete classwork but also provide additional help, such as tutors. Academy participants are also giving studying techniques that enable them to recognize their full potential as student athletes.

What helps make it successful?: One aspect of S-AA that differentiates it from other programs is the fact that students are able to maintain strong relationships with their athletic coaches. When the athletic coaches expect students to actively engage in the program with the help of specialized Academic Athletic Support Staff, they are able to gain access to the tools they need to succeed beyond the playing field. As a result, the achievements and sacrifices made off the field will enable them to be mentally stronger during the game as well.

Looking towards the future: One of the program’s long term goals is to have a student athlete academy in every middle and high school in the Bayview Area. The benefits of S-AA are numerous, especially during a time when students are developing study habits and understanding their ability to critically think. As a result of the program, there has been an increase in the amount of tutoring for student athletes as well as more resources for coaches to incentivize sports engagement through academic achievement. Thus, this program creates an environment where students can cultivate responsibility on and off the field and demonstrate what it means to be a student athlete. Because the AthLife Foundation is able to help fund schools, more staff can be hired to foster this academic growth. With more access to computers for MOOC engagement, electronic homework completion, and grade observation, students are more responsible for making the most out of their education. Because middle school is a crucial stage in a student’s life, academic and leadership skills are instrumental to the development of the student on and off the field.

For More Information about S-AA from the program creators click here.

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Canaries and Huskies Football Players are Hitting the Mark Off the Field

By Keith Groller of the Morning Call

Allen and Dieruff will meet for the 60th time in a high school football game Saturday afternoon at J. Birney Crum Stadium, and while there are more meaningful games in terms of championships and district seedings on this rivalry weekend, the game still means a lot to the kids on both teams.

The teams are a combined 3-15 and their District 11 playoff hopes were doused a few weeks ago.Yet, the Canaries and Huskies who keep competing, who still strive to do good things, and who know there’s a bigger picture and purpose to high school athletics beyond the standings and district rankings, deserve to be recognized.

Allen and Dieruff players continue to participate and thrive in a program sponsored by the AthLife Foundation.This is the sixth year the Allentown School District is participating with AthLife, and the results remain positive, much more so than what the scoreboard shows every week.In a nutshell, AthLife is an academic support program that works to ensure that deserving student-athletes from some of the nation’s most challenging communities can achieve in their careers long after they take off their helmets and pads for the last time.Because many Allen and Dieruff kids don’t have the family structure and financial backing that kids from other school districts may have, AthLife fills in the blanks and helps to keep kids on the right path.

“The program is still going strong,” said Melissa Roehrich, an Allen High teacher who is the adviser for the school’s SOAR program. SOAR stands for Students Overcoming Academic Roadblocks. “This is my sixth year of doing it and every year we’re more successful. A big plus is having [Allen head coach] George Clay as an ally. He preaches that academics must come first. A program like this won’t work unless you have the support of the head coach.

“Last year we had 14 seniors and nine of them went to college, including Wilberto Sicard, who is at Lehigh, two went into the military, one went into the Job Corps program and one went straight into the workforce. We’re pleased to have so many kids do well.”Clay’s Canaries have won just four games in the last five years, but he realizes that his job is much more important than merely winning games.

“AthLife is amazing because it helps our kids get an education and gives us support in places we need it,” Clay said. “Through AthLife we can provide a variety of experiences for the kids, like the Jason Garrett Camp [run by the Cowboys head coach] and other fun, educational programs. We’ve got former football players at Lehigh and Moravian and Kutztown and East Stroudsburg. AthLife teaches the kids what it takes to get there.”

Dieruff coach Kyle Beller agrees that AthLife has been a great help to him and his staff in keeping kids eligible and out of trouble.”It’s great for our kids because we have the opportunity to have tutors and mentors there to assist the kids and get them working on their grades,” Beller said. “It has been a very beneficial thing to our program. All of our kids go through it because we require them to attend study hall twice a week throughout the year.”

Beller said that there have been some exciting field trips over the years such as attending the NFL Draft when it was in New York City, and also going to watch Lehigh games.One special moment came last year when former Dieruff player Tariq Jarrah, who is a freshman at Lehigh, got to speak on behalf of 15 honorees at the AthLife Foundation’s annual conference in Philadelphia. He got to meet former NFL players at the function.

“We keep stressing to the kids that football is more than just playing a sport,” Beller said. “It can help to open doors to college and future careers. It also teaches you how to overcome adversity and just grind and get to work. It has raised our grade-point average and has done wonders for our kids.”

Roehrich said she’s not even a football fan, and doesn’t even understand all the fuss, but she cares about her kids and wants them to excel, just as Chris Smith does as Dieruff’s adviser in the Husky Leaders program.”At the college level, it’s commonplace for the athletes to get extra help with their work, and that’s whether it’s Division I, II or III program,” Roehrich said. “Colleges have support programs specific to the student-athletes, but at the high school level they don’t have that. So that’s where AthLife comes in.”

AthLife also arranges field trips to colleges and provides workshops on things like how you go through the college application process. Roehrich is aware of the struggles of the team on the field, but she stresses that no matter what happens on the scoreboard, they can still win in the classroom.

“Most of these kids will not be going on to play Division I football, but that’s OK,” she said. “Some of our young people think that sports are the only thing they can do. I want to show them that that’s not the case.

“I see it with the football kids who sometimes feel disappointed in themselves and get down because they’re not doing as well as they want to,” she added. “I try to highlight that there’s other things that they can be good at. Allentown kids can do good things, too. They just need to know that.”

Copyright © 2016, The Morning Call
High Schools College Sports NFL Jason Garrett Dallas Cowboys

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Schools Draw Up College Preparation Game Plan

Park East, Irvington, Curtis, and West Hill High School student athletes have begun their transition into young adult leaders. On Sunday October 2nd, deserving student athletes from these four different high schools attended a workshop at Park East High School presented by the N4A. Academic Coordinators Britney Clarke from Syracuse University, and Ryan Westman from Seton Hall University hosted the session. Both Britney and Ryan are members of the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics.

The workshop developed a game plan to help high school students better prepare for NCAA eligibility requirements for collegiate athletics. This includes encouraging student athletes to build a strong GPA, take approved core courses by checking the NCAA eligibility center website, register to take ACT and/or SAT during Junior year, and to complete required core courses before Senior year. In addition, students were shown the necessary skills needed to excel in both academics and athletics in a college environment.

“To see students come out to see us on a Sunday morning shows how committed they are to their future. These are the type of students who will make the most of the opportunities ahead of them. They are the students who I would have wanted to be my teammates and classmates.”  – Ryan J. Westmann, Seton Hall University 

“What an amazing experience we had taking time out to speak with student-athletes that were eager to receive the information we had.” – Britney T. Clarke, Syracuse University 

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Kowalski Robinson Scholarship Awarded to Top Student Athletes

Easton, PA (September 29, 2016) The AthLife Foundation announced that 15 student athletes from eight different high schools were awarded the Kowalski Robinson Youth Inspire Scholarship for the 2016-2017 academic year. In the spring of 2014, the AthLife Foundation’s national network established the scholarship fund for deserving student-athletes, who have made an impact in their respective schools and surrounding community. Three award recipients shared their academic-athletic success journeys at the AthLife Foundation’s National Conference in Philadelphia in July.

“It’s with great honor and privilege that we recognize all of our student athlete awardees,”  said AthLife President and CEO Jon Harris. “Though this fund, we continue to honor the legacy of two prominent influencers in the sport and player development industry in Tom Kowalski and Stacy Robinson.”

Tariq Jarrah from Loius E. Dieruff High School (Allentown, PA), spoke about his experience playing football and the impact his academic-athletic coach had on his success, which has led him to pursue a collegiate career at Lehigh University. At the 2016 AthLife Youth Inspire Awards Reception, Tariq stated, “I was so proud to be selected for something like this, for people that are motivated, and have that much passion, and have that much desire to get things done to help student athletes across the world.”

Graduate from Park East High School (Manhattan, NY), Foxae Foster, who is attending SUNY Cortland said, “Some people feel that doing sports, it lags you down, and you can’t do it anymore. But, actually it helps you push. Because if you really love it, and you want to pursue that sport, you know what you have to do academically.”

Also joining Jarrah and Foster was Todgenay Roseboro, graduate of Urban Dove Team Charter High School (Brooklyn, NY). The three representatives from the Class of 2016 shared the awards reception stage with two former NFL players, Will Allen from the Pittsbrugh Steelers, and current NFLPA player Affairs and Development Director, Zamir Cobb.  Both received the annual AthLife Youth Inspire Award for their community work and volunteerism.

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