By Vincent Jones, Jr. FAMU Intern
Early on the morning of Monday May 20th, hundreds of African American and minority male middle and high school students from twenty of South Florida’s local schools made their way to Hard Rock Stadium for the Football Unites ™ Police and Youth Conference hosted by the Miami Dolphins. This conference was designed to provide youth from the 5000 Role Models of Excellence program the opportunity to positively interact and create better relationships with local law enforcement officers.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence program was founded in 1993 by Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson. The mentoring program strives to prevent young minority males from dropping out of school by instilling values in them that motivate them to pursue higher education and position them for job opportunities in high demand industries.
Many young men who have had the opportunity of being a part of this organization have benefited from the mentorship provided in the program. Participation in the 5000 Role Models of Excellence has resulted in them having a new outlook on life and has been life changing. Ricky Pope, a 19-year-old senior, has been a member of 5000 Role Models of Excellence since middle school and knows the importance of having a male figure in his life. “Having a male role model, especially somebody that teaches you how to become a man, how to have responsibility is very important. They than what you can learn inside a textbook be-cause having a man in your life can teach you a lot of things; I wouldn’t be the man I am today if I hadn’t had a role model or the people that cared about me.”
The Miami Dolphins were poised to host the young men along with representatives from 28 law enforcement agencies to share their words of positivity and wisdom. Through their Football Unites ™ program, many influential members of the South Florida Community were able to interact with the young men while giving them encouragement not only by speaking but by action.
Tom Garfinkel, CEO, President, and Vice- Chair of the Miami Dolphins elaborated on the importance of the event and what it means to him and the Miami Dolphin organization.
“We are trying to use football to bring people together to create an understanding, to create a dialogue. I believe our country needs more stability to have conversations about serious issues while developing a level of understanding and empathy; creating relationships with our youth is only half the battle. Being a part of this community is not a marketing tool it’s who we are.”
Mayor of Miami Gardens, Oliver Gilbert III, who is heavily involved in the community beyond his mayoral duties was also in attendance. Mayor Gilbert was truly elated to host The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project in his city.
“To have our biggest tenant in the Miami Dolphins along with trail blazers such as Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson having an active role in bringing together law enforcement and young Black men to get to know each other creates a sense of familiarity that can not only prevent mistakes but also save lives”.
Founder of 5000 Role Models of Excellence, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson also shared her thoughts on the significance of giving the youth the chance to have a direct relationship with the police in their community.
“We are here today with boys of color and over 28 law enforcement agencies harping on this issue in hopes to bring a resolve to help break the tension that we all know exists. There are many youth here that have witnessed police interactions in their communities; today, they will get the opportunity to ask questions and raise more awareness on these issues. These occurrences are ongoing and as long as they continue is important that we have these conversations with our boys of color.”
The event was moderated by local news anchors, Juwan Strader and Calvin Hughes. Also in attendance was Dolphin alumni Nat Moore, numerous law enforcement officers, local elected officials and male mentors from the 5000 Role Models of Excellence.