Buffalo Bills safety and team co-captain George Wilson culminated a six-week mentoring program for 13 young men from the Northwest Buffalo Community Center on June 8 with calamari, steaks and some tips on dining etiquette.
Wilson's "That's Life" program was a change from what he has done over the previous two years.
"I came up with the idea of the after-school program where I could work with the same group of kids each and every week," said Wilson.
He wanted to have a more personal experience and get to know each one of the boys on a personal level, rather than talk to a big crowd of students.
"Something where I had a lasting impression, more of an impact and a stronger influence on their lives beyond the program, as opposed to just going to the school and talking for a few hours and the kids never seeing me again."
The "That's Life" program was a six-week series of different seminars that explored the elements of being successful in life. The seminar topics were Anti-Gang/Conflict Resolution, Exercise/Nutrition, Finance, SAT/ACT Prep/College Prep, College Visit to the University at Buffalo and the recognition dinner with an etiquette lesson held at the Buffalo Chop House.
"I learned that anything is possible if you work at it," said Raymond Green, 15. "Your best can always be better. If you put 100% into what you want to do you will get there. If you want to play basketball, play basketball, if you want to play football, play football, but George helped me learn that you have to use your head and not just your legs, hands and feet."
Wilson said, "These young men have been dedicated and very active and tried to get something out of each session. I tried to be more interactive with my youth program this year and to spend time with these young men over the past six weeks. I've been able to really know them as people and young men. I get to see their personalities and see them smile. I get to see a little bit of their daily struggles and being in the city of Buffalo, and they on the other hand, they can see who I am and what I'm about."
"I'm doing this program by myself this year because this is something that I came up with and that I have a passion for. I wanted it to go just the way I wanted it to go and the way I wanted it to be. It's been a great six weeks to be able to see them blossom and open up to me from week one all the way to week six."
The kids were selected through the Northwest Buffalo Community Center. Tony Williams, NW Buffalo Community Center director, has worked with many of these kids since they were young boys and he helped Wilson pick the young men for the program.
"They gave me a nickname; French Fry," said Christian Johnson, 12 and the youngest member of the program. "I was never called that before. I learned that anything is possible and life is real. You can't just wait around and say I'm going to do this. You have to make up your mind and work at it. Like what George Wilson said, That's Life."
Wilson's favorite moment of the "That's Life" program was when the guys visited the Bills Facility.
"To see the look on their faces when they came into the facility you would've thought they were seeing Disney World for the first time. When I worked out with them we only went through about 15 minutes of drills on the field. When I saw them sweat and breathing hard, I told them this is a fraction of what the players do each and every day. I tried to give them the true perspective. I'm going to make sure that their workout session wouldn't be their last trip to the Bills stadium. I owe these 13 young men tickets to a game this season so as they follow through on their end, I'm going to hold up my end of the bargain as well."
"For me to be able to learn all of their names and try and get a feel for their personalities and see what motivates them and what they want to do later in life and everything has been very rewarding. It's been a great experience for me and I hope it's been a great experience for them as well."
Wilson's goal of helping kids in a truly meaningful and lasting way, while having a more personal experience, is a mission well accomplished.
Xerox was a proud partner of the "That's Life" speaker series and donated all the posters and player cards for the program.
"The youth of today are the business leaders of tomorrow," said Edward A. Gala, United States Solutions Group, Xerox Corporation vice president of marketing. "That's why Xerox supports the "That's Life" program which provides valuable mentoring and life skills to children in the Buffalo area."
"This program builds on our long-standing partnership with the Buffalo Bills and is part of our commitment to be an active contributing member of the local community."