Our Yogi in the Community this week is a person whom I’ve known the longest out of all of our YICs! Anyone who knows me well knows that I “rep” Dayton, Ohio to the fullest! Therefore, it is an honor and pleasure to share Will’s story of community service to our hometown! Will has been playing in the NFL for 8 years
and currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although I have been highlighting “yogis” in practice, it is through knowing Will and his beautiful acts of seva, that I feel he truly embodies that oneness that Yoga represents.
Location: Tampa, FL. Hometown: Dayton, OH
Profession: Defensive Back for the Pittsburgh Steelers
Can you talk a little about the Will Allen Foundation and Quest for Real Life Success? What inspired you to develop this program?
I started the “Quest for Real Life Success” program in the spring of 2006 with Labrawn Saffold while playing for the Tamp Bay Buccaneers. The program successfully grew to the point that we started the Will Allen Foundation (WAF) in May 2008. The Foundation was created in hopes to expand my programming and to inspire youth to attain their personal best. The Will Allen Foundation has programming in place inTampa, FL, Pittsburgh, PA and most recently my hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
At the core of the Will Allen Foundation is the Quest which is an after-school program designed to prepare students for life after high school. It is structured to address key areas of a high school student’s real life development. The program objectives include: preparing students academically for college, making students aware of and preparing them for job/career opportunities, education in healthy living, making concise decisions and assisting students with developing character and integrity.
Since the program’s inception, more than 100 students have matriculated through the Quest program, many of whom are now in the midst of or even completing their college degrees. An added benefit to the Quest program, the Will Allen Foundation provides scholarship opportunities to seniors who have successfully completed the four-year program.
Can you talk a little about service? How do you feel when you serve your community? Why do you serve your community?
The importance of giving back is not self-fulfillment but of showing gratitude and thanks to those who have paved the way and sacrificed before you. Giving back perpetuates a legacy of selfless action. Without selfless acts, none of us would experience the privileges we have. It is important to me to demonstrate selfless acts of service.
I give back to a community anywhere that I see a need. In addition to Quest, I host two free football clinics a year, have created a grant program for teachers that are creatively encouraging literacy in the classroom, and are in the midst of creating the “Big Play” which will provide gently used suits to service men and people in need. Just this weekend, we threw the first annual “Summer Boost” in Dayton. We invited 150 homeless students that attend the Dayton Public Schools for a day at the Dayton Dragons (a minor leaugue baseball team) game. They were invited with their parents and guardians to come and take advantage of several vendors we had set up for pre-game festivities. Those included health and wellness vendors, hair stylists, a crafts table, a catered lunch, free school supplies for the upcoming year and transportation to and from the game. We are hoping this becomes an annual event.
If you are interested in keeping up with Will and his foundation be sure to follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/willallenwaf and Facebook www.facebook.com/willallen26 Or check out his website www.willallenfoundation.com