Jaguars Score with Honor Rows Program for Kids
By Michelle Gaseau, Managing Editor
Many professional sports teams have charitable programs where underprivileged youth get a seat at an NFL or NBA game, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have taken the idea to a new level where achievement is held in high regard.
The Jaguars Foundation has developed a program called Honor Rows that targets economically disadvantaged youth in the Jacksonville area who pledge not only to be free of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, but also participate in an 8-week program to help them meet goals such as academic achievement, perfect attendance, or improving behavior. In order to win a ticket to a Jaguars game, the youth must complete the program, which is offered by a number of community organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other local community agencies.
"Most professional sports teams have some kind of charitable seating. The difference is that instead of just giving someone a ticket and even just looking at it economically, we tried to figure out a way of how to leverage the ticket towards something that was more valuable," said Peter Racine, Executive Director of the Jaguars Foundation.
The idea for the Honor Rows program began in 1995, the year of the jaguars first season. The team owners, the Weavers, asked for assistance from Dr. Greg Gross a physician they knew from the Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston to develop the idea. According to Racine, Gross researched the concept and helped create the guidelines for the program.
Ground Rules and Goals
The program would target children from disadvantaged backgrounds who would be required to work for eight weeks with community agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club or their church, to set goals specific to their needs.
Racine said community service, academic achievement, behavioral and personal goals are supported by the parents and the agency they are working with.
"These are not A and B students, but if they are weak in math, they may have to agree to do extra math assignments. If they are working with a program, then the will [strive] to show up on time for school and would have to achieve something like as no unexcused absences," said Racine.
Racine said recently children from the area participated in a program that involved area senior citizens. The kids visited a nursing home to read to some of the seniors there. As a result of the program, the seniors asked the kids to stay on afterwards to participate in their regular aerobics class. "The kids were invited to stay on with them and they did. They called the program Reading and Robics. The striking thing is the kids felt they were a part of the community. That is neat to build community trust," said Racine.
The Jaguars Foundation works with about 40 agencies or organizations in the surrounding area that apply for a grant from the foundation. Racine said the organizations manage and design their program based on foundation guidelines, do the follow up with the children to make sure they meet their goals during the 8-week program.
Project include, a community service project, a class for high-risk juveniles to reduce anxiety toward test taking, a public housing program to reduce teen pregnancy that requires teen and parent class attendance and many others.
Recently the foundation received validation for the program from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which provides grant money for Honor Rows. The RWJF recently funded a study by the Institute for Child Health Policy at the University of Florida to determine the program's effectiveness.
Study Finds Positive Aspects to Honor Rows
The study took place over three years and was the first outside objective evaluation of Honor Rows. "Particularly, we thought we'd want to know what is the lasting value. We wanted to make sure there was," said Racine.
The study interviewed past participants in the Honors Rows program and found many positive aspects to the program. The study learned that at first, the children participated in the program because of the free game tickets, but something changed for them along the way. It found that the children were able to articulate that they could set goals and work hard to accomplish something as a result of the program.
Other results of the study included:
* identification by the children that the key to their success was the role of a parent, staff person or mentor in the program
* because they earned the ticket, the program helped the children gain self-confidence
* the programs were more successful if they were integrated in youth services agencies' broader missions
* the game day experience was highly rated by the youth.
"It is great because they get on the Jumbotron and the owners wave to them," said Racine.
The success of the program has led to models by other professional and local sports teams as well, Racine said.
The New Jersey Nets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Honor Rows program, as well as colleges and one high school, Racine said.
For more information visit the Jaguars website at www.jaguars.com or for information about the study, go to www.rwjf.org/health/035816s.htm
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