On a beautiful sunny morning in Derry, NH, 2 Time Super Bowl Champion Patriots players Matthew Slater and Duron Harmon, along with Pat Patriot, and Patriots Cheerleaders Alex and Andrea joined 315 Rochester Middle School 7th graders for a robust classroom visit and panel discussion centered around Character.
Matthew Slater, himself an exemplary man of Character, as the Patriots’ Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominee and 2017 Bart Starr Award winner, kicked off the classroom visit by congratulating 7th grade teacher Lorne Lucas and his ten students on their commitment to character.
As part of his welcome address, Mr. Lucas shared the enthusiasm his students showed when offered Character Playbook as a learning resource. “Usually I get groans and rolled eyes when I introduce a new learning tool. But you can tell the value of a program, when students greet it with eagerness and want to dive right in and explore.” Mr. Lorne and his students then invited special guests from the United Way, the New England Patriots, members of the media and Assistant Superintendent Kyle Repucci to pull up a chair and experience Character Playbook themselves on any of the 15 Microsoft Surface tablets provided specifically for this occasion.
Once familiar with the program, guests and students made their way to the theatre across the hall, to join the rest of the 7th grade. After a spirited welcome complete with the Patriots anthem “Crazy Train”, Duron Harmon set a personal tone recalling a time he let his emotions get the best of him during his rookie camp back in 2011. This personal anecdote was the first of many shared over the 45 minute assembly, touching on respecting others’ opinions, healthy relationships and responsible use of social media.
Asked by a student about how to monitor responsible use of social media, Harmon cited a few examples of his own and pleaded “Ask yourself, ‘Is this post reflection of who I want to be? Would my mom be ok with me posting this?’ ”
Harmon mentioned his mother many times as a pivotal figure in his journey from an underdog to a tenured NFL athlete.
From the small state of Delaware, not known for its pipeline to the NFL, Harmon found himself a new home in the up and coming program at Rutgers. “I had a great mother. A mother who told me that I could do anything in this world. No dream is too big. And my mother let me know that from the beginning. There have been times that people told me that I wasn’t going to get to the NFL. There were family members who didn’t know any better, because they’d never seen it before. But I never let that discourage me.”
After the fact, Harmon reported to Concord News Radio: “It’s a blessing to be able to use football as my platform to reach out to the youth, Being able to share some insight in my life, of how I try to live my life with great character. Everybody makes mistakes. Nobody is perfect. The fact that you can identify when you make a mistake, is what makes good people great people.”
The New England Patriots, United Way of the Greater Seacoast and Granite United Way bring this web-based program to schools throughout New England, reaching over 600 students since the program’s inception. With almost the entire 7th grade enrolled in Character Playbook, Rochester Middle School, in the Granite United Way catchment, has more students on the program than any other school in New England.