New Study Says Honor Rows Program Has Made a Difference For Jacksonville-Area Youngsters
Princeton, NJ - A National Football League (NFL) team's foundation has developed a project that motivates economically and socially disadvantaged Jacksonville-area youth to improve behaviors and could be a national model for other sports foundations, says an independent assessment. A report from the Institute for Child Health Policy finds that the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation's Honor Rows Program supported school performance, inspired youth to improve personal behaviors, and enhanced self-confidence among participants. It also has elevated the Jaguars as a model corporate citizen that gives back to its community.
The Institute analysis was funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest philanthropy devoted to improving health and health care for all Americans. The assessment included interviews with key administrative personnel at 12 participating youth programs as well as participating youth and volunteers from businesses in the Jacksonville community.
The Honor Rows Program is sponsored by the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation. The Jaguars was the first professional sports team to institute the Honor Rows Program. Begun in 1995, the program grants blocks of stadium tickets to more than 40 community agencies each year, which in turn award seats to low-income youth who meet certain goals to earn a seat at a home game. The goals include doing better in school, becoming more involved with the community, and enhancing personal behaviors.
Since implementing the program six years ago, the Jaguars Foundation has received numerous requests from others who want to replicate the program, including National Football League teams, other professional sports teams, colleges and universities, and even a high school.
The Honor Rows program targets economically and socially disadvantaged youth between the ages of 9 and 16, who pledge at the outset to refrain from tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use. Since the program began, more than 12,000 Jacksonville-area children have met the Honor Rows challenge. Youth come from a variety of backgrounds, including inner city neighborhoods, single parent households, foster care arrangements, and poor rural communities.
Under the program, young people participate in at least an eight-week session in which they mark progress toward their goals. Participating agencies design their own program under the general guidelines set up by the Foundation. Projects include a character development class that also requires participants to complete a public service project and maintain a perfect attendance record; a class for high-risk juveniles to help reduce anxiety toward test taking and increase confidence in their skills; and a public housing program to reduce teen pregnancy that requires a youth and a parent to attend a specific number of classes. Upon completion of the program, Honor Rows youth attend a Jaguars game and receive a special yellow T-shirt, a hat, lunch, a certificate and public recognition during the game.
Jaguars Foundation Executive Director Peter Racine says, "A special highlight during the game is when the youngsters see their faces on the jumbo television screen." They win attention from their family and friends for an achievement as the team owners Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver wave yellow flags and lead the stadium in giving a rousing applause to the youth. "This is really an incredible moment for the kids," says Racine. "A lot of these adolescents have never been asked to set goals in their life so they really appreciate the value of goal setting and the incentives and support associated with reaching their goals. When they get to the game, they feel proud that they earned the seat."
Says one Honor Rows graduate, "We were up on the TV. And my dad was there and everything."
According to the Institute's assessment, young people have gained a sense of personal confidence through the act of earning a seat. In addition, identifying with the Jaguars has fostered a sense of belonging to the community and being important. On several occasions, Florida Governor Jeb Bush has come to the Honor Rows Section to congratulate the youth. Several other youth met National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Having a mentor has also made a significant difference to the kids participating in this program, according to the assessment. Youth consistently cite the importance of having an adult mentor help them succeed in achieving their goals. Says one Honor Rows youth, "They made sure you did what you set out to do. They wouldn't let you give up on nothing."
For local agencies, the report shows that allying with the Jaguars Foundation is a great benefit. They are able to enhance existing programs, increase the level of oversight of community youth, widen cultural horizons for area youth, improve educational and career horizons for youngsters, strengthen community ties, and leverage local and private support. The Jaguars Foundation was able to help one multi-service agency for high-risk inner city kids - The Bridge of Northeast Florida - enlist Nike to be a corporate partner. Through a Nike "Re-use-a-shoe" program, the corporate giant helped create a basketball court for kids in the area. Honor Rows also has attracted the support and volunteer efforts of adults in the community and given more visibility to agencies working with youth.
The independent assessment is an attempt to measure the effectiveness of Honor Rows on participating agencies and youth. The results will help the Jaguars Foundation develop a set of best practices that will be used to guide other professional sports foundations interested in similar endeavors. They include the efforts of the Sports Philanthropy Project, a national initiative funded by RWJF that provides technical assistance to professional sports teams and their foundations to benefit the health and social development of their communities. More information on Honor Rows can be found by visiting www.sportsphilanthropyproject.com under Philanthropy Tip or www.jaguars.com and click on Jaguars Foundation. For a more complete summary of the Institute for Child Health Policy assessment, please visit www.rwjf.org and click on http://www.rwjf.org/health/035816s.htm
*The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grantmaking in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; to promote healthy communities and lifestyles; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse -- tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. *