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Roland Williams leads youth program

Rochester, N.Y. - The City of Rochester is teaming up with Super Bowl champ and East High graduate Roland Williams to start the Youth Mentorship and Empowerment Program.

Williams said, I just know how much it can affect lives and I know our young people need us now and Im going to be a part of it.

Through football, the year-long initiative is meant to help young men grow on and off the field.

I don't think I'd be anywhere without football, honestly, said Jaquan McCullagh, I think I'd be on the street corner too.

Its where McCullagh said many of his friends have ended up because many of the RCSD sports teams dont have year-round programs.

A senior at Wilson Magnet High School, McCullagh said, We cant get our equipment to do spring football and things like that when the suburban schools are doing those type of things so its kind of hard for us, do our own little training.

In an empty field near the University of Rochester, McCullagh and a group of friends met up to practice on their own. Its a work ethic they learned from Changing the Community, or CTC, one of the only youth football programs in the city that operates all year.

Another student at Wilson Magnet High School, Kemani Howard said, A lot of kids have the want to be a football player but you really dont do it because you dont have nowhere to go. I mean CTC is that place for people but not everybody is at CTC.

Now, partnered with the city, Williams is starting a similar program.

Without football in my life, I dont know where I would be and without the mentorship that came along with football there would be no me.

Williams said he is looking for about 100 mentors to join him in this effort.

Williams said, Football is not only a great vehicle for the participant learning things like discipline and teamwork and overcoming adversity but also it inspires the adults to come get involved in a fun environment.

Much more than a game Williams said sports teach kids how to be successful on and off the field.

You talk about work ethic, consistency, learning how to be part of a team, learning about adversity, learning how to deal with conflict and how you succeed.

Playing football year-round gave Howard and McCullagh opportunities they couldnt pass upthe two 18-year-olds said its what kept them on the right path.

Thanks to football and their mentors, both are headed off to college next year with full-scholarships. Howard said, I always dreamed about it because thats what I wanted to do but it was never something that I thought, okay this is really going to happen.

Off to play college in the fall, the two said they will be ready to return to the city in the summer to mentor other kids.

McCullag said, When I first met Roland I looked up to him as I think how kids are going to look up to us in a few more years or maybe even now, so that feeling is great, it has to be great.

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Washington Times