Bama Football Players Mentor Tuscaloosa Kids Through Big Brothers Big Sisters
More than a dozen kids in Tuscaloosa will have their lives changed by one-on-one mentoring from active Crimson Tide football players volunteering through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama.
For 120 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has paired adult volunteers with children six and older who may need an extra role model in their lives to have a lasting, positive impact on their development.
Whitney A. Jamison, the School-Based Coordinator and Director of Recruitment at Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama said they always need additional volunteer mentors. The need for more Big Brothers to work with young boys is especially pronounced, so it felt serendipitous when members of Alabama Football's Player Development staff reached out asking for community service opportunities for athletes.
Jamison said the staffers, Assistant Director Evan Van Nostrand and former Tide star Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, have gotten 14 Tide players signed up and through BBBS's extensive vetting process since September.
It's no small commitment or photo op either - each player who becomes a Big Brother is signing up to spend an hour each week with his Little Brother for a full calendar year - a huge demand for players whose time is already mostly accounted for.
The impact of an Alabama football player spending an hour a week with a child who needs extra support cannot be overstated, said Susan Quarles, a counselor at The Alberta School of Performing Arts.
"Having these players here is absolutely amazing," Quarles said. "One of our second-graders who has been matched with a player for three weeks now, the mannerisms that have been instilled in this young man -- I can see the change. I mean, he just smiles more! And the other students want to be mentored now because they now the Bigs are football players, these babies are so beyond excited."
Prentice and Campbell Meet Their Littles
Bama fans already know the impact Linebacker Jihaad Campbell and Wide Receiver Kobe Prentice have on the field - Prentice pulled in a 40-yard pass from Jalen Milroe on Saturday to score a touchdown against the Kentucky Wildcats, and Campbell's scoop-and-score fumble recovery touchdown extended the lead over the Tennessee Volunteers last month.
On Thursday morning, the two sophomore standouts traveled to the Alberta School of the Performing Arts for their first shift as Big Brothers and to meet the Littles they'll be working with.
Campbell and Prentice were all smiles as they met the boys they will mentor, got to know them and goofed around with two students on the basketball court in the gym.
Prentice also got to meet his Little's mother, who was near tears as she learned he would be working with her son.
In an interview with the Thread at the end of their time in the school, the football players - who aren't required to do any of this - said they are thrilled to step into this role.
"For us to be Big Brothers, that's definitely an honor," Jihaad Campbell said. "It's special because a lot of people don't have that person in life who understands what they're going through and sometimes people are misguided and need to be guided back to the right direction to be successful."
Prentice said everyone needs a role model - that the players had them as kids and it's their turn to serve.
"I look at this as a blessing,' Prentice said. "Sometimes kids just need somebody they can open up to and connect with to get them over the hump because man we all fall into the hump at some point."
Campbell, who has notched almost 50 solo and combined tackles this season, said mentoring the kids can offer something back to the players, too.
"This is really a help me, help you situation. They help me understand how to be a better person, and how to treat people right, with kindness," he said. "And I'm helping you understand how to be successful, how to grow up and respect your parents and everyone else who's around you, how to be aware of your surroundings and know your worth."
That can be the most important result, Campbell said, to inspire young people to imagine better futures for themselves.
"We can have an impact on these kids," he said. "We can make them feel, make them see that they are bigger than what they think they are. That's the most important thing."
"It's an investment," Prentice said. "It's a blessing for us to be able to sow into their lives, be a part of their lives because they're going to be great someday in whatever they do, too."
14 BIG BROTHERS AND COUNTING
Jamison, the director of recruitment at Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama, said Van Nostrand and Clinton-Dix have helped get 14 Alabama players signed up as Big Brothers this year.
They include Tyler Booker, Tim Keenan III, Jihaad Campbell, Kendrick Law, Jay Loper, Michael Lorino, Alijah May, Caleb McDougle, Kobe Prentice, Quandarrius Robinson, Reid Shuback, Charlie Skehan, Peyton Yates and Chase Davis.
"It's amazing that you're pouring into this town that loves y'all so much," Jamison told the sophomores Thursday. "It's your way of paying it forward and paying it back without really even realizing it and we're just so grateful, you have no idea the difference you're making."
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Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)