INGLEWOOD,CA-Learn first. Play later. Have fun. First impressions usually have a lasting impression. If that is the case, members of the Los Angeles Chargers made a pretty good one with students at Highland Elementary School with a recent visit. The shell-shocked looks on the students’ faces told the story of both wonderment and glee. Happy faces abounded everywhere.
The youngsters at the Inglewood school were caught off guard when rookie players from the Chargers strolled off a chartered bus to the playground of Highland Elementary to promote fitness during a two-hour exercise excursion on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
“It’s all about the kids,” Chargers linebacker Nigel Harris said. “It feels good to be out here, letting them know to get outside for 60 minutes a day and have some fun. That’s what it’s about.”
The Play60 Junior Chargers Training Camp, which was co-hosted by both the Chargers and the Inglewood Police Department, dished out plenty of giggles and smiles as students bantered back and forth between fitness stations where they participated in football drills with the players and police officers.
As many as 120 students were chosen to participate in the activity as a direct result of their academic prowess and the way they embody the school spirit, school principal Dr. Annette Beasley said.
“It’s really excitement for us,” Dr. Beasley said. “It tells us about endless possibilities, instill some hope for our kids, that they can dream big and do big things and achieve big things, as far as school. Just to have these students selected …about 120 of them; they were selected based on having positive behavior in the classroom, following our PDSI model, which is being prepared, be responsible, be kind, be respectful and be on time at school everyday. So these are ambassadors of that, and they’re really out here just showing that our schools are doing great things and want to appreciate the kids are doing.”
For their dedicated work in the classroom, the students, second through sixth grade, got a chance to play catch football, hit tackling dummies and filter in an all-around atmosphere of fun with Chargers players and Inglewood police officers. Inglewood police officer Melissa Lopez know these kids. She was once one of them. Officer Lopez grew up in Inglewood, so she understands the importance of the connection between law enforcement and the community.
“This event means a lot since I grew up in the city,” Lopez said. “This is my hometown. for the Chargers to be here and be part of this community event is great. It’s exciting for the kids, especially.”
Lopez believes these types of events will probably go a long ways in helping some of the students get more motivated to pursue their dreams.
“This is something that is going to motivate them, perhaps, to pursue maybe a sport,” she said.
For Inglewood police officer Mychal Blaylock, anytime the opportunity for law enforcement to join in partnership with the community, is a good thing.
“At the end of the day, these kids are our future,” Blaylock said. “They’re the ones that will grow up, maybe some of them will be our bosses someday, so it’s good to come out here and they get to see us in this light, we get to see them in this light, come out here and have a good interaction.”
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler wasn’t as fortunate as these students to participate in a Play60 event while he was in school. But meeting an NFL player would have gotten his attention, he said.
“I think it’s cool for these kids,” Ekeler said. “I never did anything like this when I was growing up. [But] as a kid thinking…as a dream of playing in the NFL when I was a kid, and seeing an actual NFL player when I was young like that would have made it more of a reality to me, like they’re human. So it [Play60 event]kind of humanizes us more when we’re out here with them.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”