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Hometown huddle

You can succeed, achieve and accomplish. That was the message Jaguars players Terry Cousin, Nick Sorensen, Jamie Winborn and Joe Zelenka, along with ROAR Cheerleaders, recently took to two schools in Duval County. The event was part of the seventh Annual Hometown Huddle, a NFL-wide day of service that provides NFL players from each team the opportunity to take part in a variety of community-service activities.

Since 1999, Hometown Huddle has been a joint venture between the NFL and United Way. The program highlights the successful partnership and the positive contributions of NFL players in the community.

While NFL teams already are involved in voluntary projects, the aim of the Hometown Huddle is to bring greater emphasis to already existing programs by joining forces on a single day.

Close to 600 students from Ribault Middle School and Rutledge Pearson Elementary School participated in a school-wide assembly which turned into a pep-rally to help build the confidence and self-esteem in the children.

"Today was great," said George Maxey, principal at Ribault Middle School. "The players really hit home today…what they brought today to the kids, this is what we've been trying to instill in them."

Debra Mackey, principal at Rutledge Pearson Elementary School said, "Actually what they were focusing on is the same think that we focus on, so it could not have been better prepared…the way they did it, the kids were all into it and they will listen to Jaguars players because they look up to them."

Both Ribault Middle and Rutledge Pearson participate in United Way of Northeast Florida's Full Service School Program, a collaboration designed to remove barriers to academic success. The goal of the program is to help our young people become healthy, motivated, and well-behaved students.

Each Full Service School site offers different services depending on varying needs of the neighborhoods.

"We have 11 schools we service," said Gloriden Norris, Program Coordinator of the Ribault Middle School Full Service School Program

"If it's been assessed that a child needs some mental health therapy or the whole family, we provide counseling and we can provide the therapy for the child in the school as opposed to the parent going to an outpatient clinic."

For over 30 years, the collaboration between the NFL and United Way has changed the landscape of corporate / non-profit community partnerships. It is a relationship that has been strengthened by the volunteer efforts of NFL players and teams nationwide.

"In three decades working with the United Way, we have shown how NFL players, coaches and owners serve their communities in order to inspire others to join us in volunteering to make a difference," says Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

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