Former NFL Player Supporting Detroit Literacy Camp

VIDEO – AFT Detroit (the American Federation of Teachers) sponsors a literacy camp to help students prepare as they get ready to go back to school, and once again this year former NFL player Nolan Harrison made an appearance to help motivate the kids.

The camp is in its second year and is a combined effort by the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the Detroit Federation of Para-Professionals, and the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees.  The camp focuses on reinforcing basic skills – reading, writing and math.

“This is my second time in a row to volunteer to come here to give the kids a little pep talk and really reinforce the importance of education,” Harrison said.

Harrison was a defensive end / tackle who played for ten years with the LA/Oakland Raiders, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins from 1991 to 2000.  Harrison is currently the Senior Director of the NFL Players Association Former Players Services, which services approximately 16,000 former players, providing guidance in career transition, education and health.

The literacy camp targets children in grades 3 through 7, and is designed to offer an exciting experience that combines fun and learning.  The camp runs for a solid week and is served by a number of volunteers.

“It’s wonderful for the children.  I can see it day by day that they’re getting the idea of what this is about,” said Joyce Kushmar, retired school secretary and volunteer at the camp.

“We as educators often don’t get the opportunity to focus on those skills that we know are important,” said Vanessa Parnell, teacher and another volunteer at the camp.

The program has been very successful so far and continues to grow.

“It is a great event that they are doing in Detroit,” Harrison said.  “In the last two years, the American Federation of Teachers has done a phenomenal job organizing this event. Last year I spoke in front of 60 kids. This year it was 80. I expect it to go up every year, along with their test scores, to prove that these kids should be given the chance to succeed.”

“Detroit is in such a fragile place because of this economy right now and these kids could be the biggest victims without the assistance of these wonderful volunteers.”

A lot of schools are closing and with budget cutbacks, even many of the Detroit schools that are remaining open are having trouble meeting the educational needs of the children.  The volunteers are giving their time to come in on their own to supplement the education that the kids are getting in the classroom during the school year.

As Harrison said, “That’s what being a hero is all about, and that’s what making a difference every day is all about.”

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