The Miami Dolphins' commitment to the youth of South Florida once again was on display when the team hosted the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project's annual Police and Youth Conference at Hard Rock Stadium on Tuesday.
The Miami Dolphins hosted the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project's annual Police and Youth Conference at Hard Rock Stadium.
The conference in the BankUnited Club Level involved more than 600 high school students and law enforcement officers from South Florida, as well as players and members of the Dolphins organization. The sponsorship of the conference is part of a yearly fund for advocacy and social justice programs by Owner Stephen Ross and Dolphins players.
"This is just phenomenal," said Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, who founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellent Project in 1993 when she was a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board. "To have the Dolphins involved, our home team, our kids, these are their heroes. So to have them involved and them teaching a lesson to the children is just phenomenal. We're so lucky to have this partnership."
The purpose of the annual conference is to promote positive interaction between youth and law enforcement.
The conference featured a panel discussion featuring Dolphins President/CEO Garfinkel, Dolphins Senior V.P. of Special Projects and Alumni Relations Nat Moore, players Kenny Stills and Ja'Wuan James, as well as four law enforcement officers - J.D. Patterson, Assistant Chief for the City of Miami Gardens Police Department; Major Timothy Belcher, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); Ian A. Moffett, Chief of Miami-Dade Schools Police; and Delma Noel-Pratt, Chief of the City of Miami Gardens Police Department.
The panelists talked about their journey and the importance of making good decisions, as well as address issues such as misconceptions involving law enforcement and the challenges facing officers.
"It's very important for these type of discussions and panels to happen," Stills said. "When they reach out to me and ask me if I can be part, it's drop everything that I have going on to make sure that I'm here. I realize the influence that I have and the platform that I have. I remember being a kid, being their age and the people that I looked up to spending time with me and trying to (bring) positive things in my life. It's my focus in the offseason, trying to help uplift others, and I'll continue to use my platform for positive change."
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project services 105 schools throughout Miami-Dade County and involves more than 8,000 participants and 6,000 volunteers. The program features more than 30 components, teaching boys about healthy living, responsibility, respect, and how to attain future goals.
The mission of the 5000 Role Models of Excellent Project is to "give minority boys hope, as well as the vision of greatness to emulate in their everyday lives and has formed a fraternal aura of brotherly love throughout Miami-Dade County, which will soon spread across the nation."
Several Role Models were involved in the conference Tuesday, among them Patterson, Moffett, Belcher, as well as the toastmasters for the event, local television news anchors Calvin Hughes and Jawan Strader. Other Role Models on hand Tuesday were Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III, Miami-Dade County School Board member Dr. Steven Gallon III, Miami-Dade Police Department Assistant Director Alfred Ramirez III, and City of Miami Police Department Assistant Chief Dennis Jackson II.
"It's special to develop the relationship with these young people," Jackson said. "They look up to you. Oftentimes they have some stigma as it relates to law enforcement, but (then) they have an opportunity to meet you and find out that you're just like them. You came from the same place, you bleed just like them, you laugh just like them. And then they're able to grow and to develop a love for us. That's what we want. We don't want our children to think negative about us because we will be the first ones to give our lives for them.
"To have the Miami Dolphins involved in this, this is tremendous. This is major. Because we can reach some of the children, but I think the Dolphins can reach them all. So to have the Dolphins involved with working with us and the children and the Congresswoman has just been a tremendous asset. We are so thankful for the Miami Dolphins."
Stills and James were not the only Dolphins players on hand to lend their support. Also at Hard Rock Stadium on Tuesday were offensive linemen Jake Brendel and Jermon Bushrod.
Along with Moore, Dolphins alumni on hand included Troy Drayton, Twan Russell and O.J. McDuffie.
"Anytime we can be around these kids, being around these young individuals to inspire them any way that we can, it's pivotal for us because we're in such a fortunate position," Bushrod said. "It took a lot to get here, but it's also good to share your story to the young kids and just inspire them."
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project Police and Youth Conference came a little more than two months after the Dolphins and RISE (the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) hosted a High School Roundtable at Hard Rock Stadium.
It was in November when the Dolphins announced the creation of their yearly fund for social justice that includes the Project Change Scholarship.
Jason Jenkins, the Dolphins Senior Vice President for Communications and Community Affairs and another Role Model, saw the conference Tuesday as another way to help bring the community together.
"It was an amazing thing," Jenkins said. "I know it's important to our owner, Stephen Ross, to our president/CEO, Tom Garfinkel, and our players to really drive this conversation forward. We started the Social Justice Grant program in November. This is one of the bigger events that we've done around this, and being able to work with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, to have Congresswoman Wilson, bringing law enforcement here together, bringing players together around a social justice narrative about how we can push this conversation forward, that's the main thing. How can we move this conversation forward? How can make a difference in our community?
"Our goal is also bigger than the Dolphins, bigger than the NFL, just bigger than sports. We want every team to be able to use their platform in sports to bring people together. Youth sports is a way to harness social justice, it's a way to bring about change, and a way to get everyone together."