RISE, Payments unite numerous highschool soccer groups, empower leaders for racial justice
The experience-based RISE program trains and empowers young and adult participants to become leaders in discussing and addressing issues such as racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusion in their teams, schools and communities. Over the eight weeks, Phillips von Bills, co-head coach and two-time Super Bowl champion Leslie Frazier, former captain Lorenzo Alexander, Preston Teague, Bill’s senior director of Community Relations and Youth Football, and Jeremy Kelley, Bill’s alumni manager, joined.
During the course of the program, topics such as identity, perspective adoption, how sport is a vehicle for change, privilege and leadership, were discussed with the students in sessions with activities and group discussions. These discussions fostered relationships between participants, trainers, and staff, and helped them build skills to be culturally competent and advocate for racial justice.
“I was always open to other people of different races, never discriminated against what they looked like or where they came from, but [in the program] I learned and realized that people of other races come from many different backgrounds and may not live as privileged as I do. I’m much more open to helping them and seeing their side through their eyes and understanding them a lot better now, “said Shaun Gallagher, senior at Frontier Central.
Javion Carter, a senior at Niagara Falls, said: “[The program] can give you perspectives and things that you didn’t know in order to make you grow as a person like it did with me. “
As RISE is committed to racial justice, key to achieving its mission to end racial discrimination is promoting thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that build cultural literacy. The program provided a safe space for students, coaches and Bills staff to have difficult conversations, especially as western New York has recently seen several incidents of racial violence that have created divisions within communities.
“I hope the long-term effects are that [student-athletes] Take some of the skills and difficult conversations we’ve had and apply them as much as possible in your life, ”said Frontier Central trainer Rich Gray. “When you get into a situation you can rely on some of the skills you learned in the RISE program to tackle difficult situations or to be more tolerant in situations or to see someone else’s side and outward and into the heart to look from someone. “
Donald Bass, trainer at Niagara Falls, added, “Racism is learned. Once you know that, you can be taught differently, and I think if you looked at players from Frontier, Salamanca and South Park, they could see that it’s not them that’s different from us. They just live in a different place. … I hope that they get together and start treating each other differently, and they become that light in the dark, become leaders, and realize that there is a better way to do things. “
Frazier, the Bills’ deputy head coach and defensive coordinator, saw this lead as he joined attendees for a session.
“Everyone on that call, you are your own leader,” Frazier said. “You don’t have to be the captain of the team or the star of the team, but there are certain qualities, when you have them, people want to follow you. Influence is what leadership is – being able to get people to do things. “They sometimes think they can’t.”
As he finished his last RISE session, Salamanca freshman Archer Newark said he was ready to bring those skills back to his high school and share this message to make positive change.
“When you see someone, go up and help them if they need it, even if they are not of the same race,” he said. “… [It’s important] so that people know what life is about and stand up for others. “