The cheers that echoed through Warner Middle School in Westminster, Calif. could likely be heard from down the street as on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Chargers and Orange County United Way celebrated the one-year anniversary launch of Character Playbook.
Powered by EVERFI, Character Playbook is an in-school digital program that teaches students the importance of having good character. The NFL, Chargers and Orange County United Way teamed up to bring Character Playbook to 13 schools throughout Orange County for the first time during the 2017-2018 school year, reaching nearly 4,500 students.
"It was incredible, and it couldn't have gone any better," Tiffany Harville, Principal of Warner Middle School said. "Our kids have been working on Character Playbook all year, so to see it all come together and see the players being so supportive (made) our kids super excited."
"I think this opportunity to partner with the Los Angeles Chargers is amazing because we are able to partner and help schools and students get engaged," added Sue Parks, CEO Orange County United Way. "You see their excitement when the players were out there, and the players were amazing! I loved it; the answers they gave and their interactions with the students. It was so meaningful and it's going to have a lasting impact in their lives."
Chargers players Rayshawn Jenkins, Justin Jackson and Anthony Lanier joined Parks in a very special "character chat," where students broke off into small groups to analyze various scenarios on understanding and managing emotions. Later on, they had a full school assembly where each player spoke on how having good character has impacted their own lives.
"I feel like it was something we didn't talk about when I was that age," Jenkins said. "Especially, with having someone with our kind of platform come talk to the kids. I felt like that was big to them. I feel like if we could have changed one or two people, that's cool to me. Character takes you a long way. People, generally, just like to be around good people. People who don't have good character, they don't really get too far because we don't want to be around those people."
"I think for my kids, it's really just that they are looking at (the players) like they were just them," Harville reflected. "They were once middle schoolers. It made it more real, that they have the ability to be successful just like them. The players were honest about their struggles, and how they had to work on their character growing up and I think our kids really needed to hear that."
As Harville attested, having the players there really resonated with the students. Jackson agreed, as he had a former NFL player visit him when he was these kids' age. It left a lasting impression, and one he was fortunate enough to replicate on Wednesday.
"It's something I love to do, just to be able to talk to kids and influence them in any way we can," he said. "We all remember when we were that young. I remember when I was in middle school, Roberto Garza, who played for the (Chicago) Bears at the time, came to our middle school and everyone freaked out and went crazy. I remember being in that mindset and now I am that person. I know I'm just a person, but for them, we're larger than life. So just to be able to influence them, in any singular way, if there's one thing they took away then I think our job was (done well)."
Chargers players were on hand at Warner Middle School to participate in a live Character Playbook exercise, celebrating the one-year anniversary launch of the program powered by EVERFI.