The internet can be a very dangerous place at times, but within the hazards scattered about the world wide web, there are several sites and programs that can be quite productive. The NFL and United Way have decided to embrace the internet's influence on the youth of America, and have created a program called Character Playbook focusing on youth character development and building healthy relationships.
This past Friday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins and United Way of Broward County launched their Character Playbook at Deerfield Beach Middle School with help from wide receivers Kenny Stills and Rashawn Scott, and alumni players Twan Russell and Troy Drayton.
Stills - who won the Dolphins Nat Moore Community Service Award this past season - was accompanied by Scott and Drayton to interact with a class of 7th and 8th graders who were trying out the program for the very first time, which gave them a first look at what the program had to offer as well.
They were impressed to say the least, with both the program and the students being tested by it.
"I like it, I need to give it to my little brother the way I thought about it," Scott said. "Just how smart they were answering back to all the questions, you know there's different feelings out there and sometimes you get them wrong, but it's just a different feeling. It's just teaching you this feelings goes with that, so they're getting a head start actually and I love it."
The Character Playbook uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years, and is comprised of six interactive, digital modules that cover key concepts around positive character development, social-emotional learning, and building healthy relationships.
With no shortage of situations for students to go through in real life, the Character Playbook aims to tackle as many issues as possible.
"Some of the character we're trying to build is healthy relationships," said United Way of Broward County President & CEO Kathleen Cannon. "So about how people interact with each other, also about accepting who people are, not bullying or not judging. Also about drugs and alcohol, making those decisions and how to progress in a healthy manner, building strong self-esteem and strong decision-making, so all of that is built into this platform.
"It's different scenarios that kids face, different reactions that they have to have and different decisions, and it takes them through multi-different platforms of how to make those decisions and what's good character and what's not, what could happen if you make some decisions, and it opens the tough conversations that we have to have with kids and with each other and is very thought-provoking."
After the time spent in the computer-lab setting, everyone moved into the school's cafeteria and was joined by several other classes of middle-schoolers, where they met with the players and the MC Twan Russell to get some information on being Dol-fit, along with a Q&A with the players on what it means for them to have good character.
Which is a concept that football players in this day and age know only too well.
"I got little brothers and sisters, it means a lot." said Rashawn Scott. "You know when you feel in your gut that you can't let anyone down, and if you let them down then this is how they look up to you, so don't think about yourself, think about the people that are below you, and the people that you chase to catch up to their character, you think about them too."
Character has become a big deal in the NFL, so the fact that so much effort is being put into teaching up and coming students the way things are supposed to be done speaks volumes of the NFL's intentions. The Miami Dolphins - ever an example for what being community-oriented is all about - was sure to be a part of the program's spreading influence.
The hope is that within the next five years, every middle school would be using the Character Playbook, with the added hope that it will lead the way to a better tomorrow.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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