Former NFL players help initiative to expand high school leadership on and off the field in Miami-Dade County
“Attitude is Altitude,” proclaimed Donnell Bennett, the former NFL Kansas City Chief running back and stalwart at the University of Miami Hurricanes. He motioned his brawny arm in an ascending arc to simulate the takeoff of a jet aircraft to help make his point to 50 student-athletes at Miami Edison Senior High School at a recent leadership training immersion session.
Bennett’s conversation with the group of Red Raiders centered on what it takes to have the correct type of mental outlook to achieve success relating “altitude” (how successful you can become in life) with “attitude” (starting off with the right mindset). He communicated his personal story about pushing himself in the classroom and on the gridiron as an athlete to excel and attain the goals he set for himself.
Bennett – referred to as “Head Coach or DB” by students – is a key member of the Student ACES program, a values-based leadership training organization, sponsored by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) to expand high school leadership development in Miami-Dade County with the goal of building young men and women of honor, integrity and character. With the tremendous success of the initial training program at Miami Edison, Student ACES will be offering leadership training throughout Miami-Dade County High Schools. The first wave of training will be focused on Miami Edison, North Miami Senior High School, Northwestern Senior High School, Booker T. Washington Senior High School, Miami Central Senior High School and Carol City Senior High School.
“While most students and parents are spending the last week before school starts figuring out what forms to fill out or what kind of supplies to purchase, we saw an opportunity to improve on traditional back-to-school activities and offer lessons in leadership,” said Buck Martinez, founder of Student ACES, a 501(c) 3 organization dedicated to providing leadership programs, mentoring, scholarships and internship opportunities for high school students. “A foundation of values is what defines character with individuals in our society who we look up to and emulate, and it is the goal of Student ACES to instill these admirable qualities in young people.”
“It’s really never too early to ‘get ahead of the game’ by instilling a foundation in these student- athletes,” said Bennett. “With the things that are going on in the world today, these kids need to soak up what it means to be a leader and do the right things to put them on a path to success.”
Other participants in the program who spoke about overcoming life adversity, the importance of maintaining and protecting a positive image and being responsible and dependable included DaJuan Morgan, former University of North Carolina State standout and NFL Kansas City Chief defensive back and Chris Priester, a Broward County educator and comedian.
About Student ACES
Student ACES’ focus is to inspire, train and mentor a community of Student ACES who exemplify leadership traits in athletics, community service and education. Its mission is to develop tomorrow’s leaders by providing best-in-class leadership curriculum, mentoring and projects that make a difference in their communities. Student ACES is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Schools participating in the Student ACES program include those from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.