Safety Will Allen doesn’t hesitate when it comes to helping out today’s youth, especially trying to provide them guidance through the Quest for Real Life Success program which strives to build awareness and help young people in the community as a part of the Will Allen Foundation,
The after school mentoring program, which he ran this year at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh and Wayne High School in Dayton, Ohio, was set up to discuss topics to help the students prepare for life after high school. The programs place emphasis on test taking skills, resume writing, job interview skills and also stress community service.
“I wanted to do something to help them be more proactive about their futures, to help them think outside the box and thinking more about being a young professional going into college,” said Allen of the program he began when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I wanted to bridge the gap going from high school to college so they can be better decision makers, be more cognizant of opportunities and tools and resources that are available.”
Allen learned the importance of being a mentor from his father, Keith Allen, and is one of several Steelers who recently shared the story of who his mentor is with the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MPSWPA) in celebration of January being National Mentoring Month.
“We’re grateful to continue our partnership with the Pittsburgh Steelers to learn more about how mentoring has impacted players’ lives,” said Kristan Allen, director of marketing and communications for MPSWPA “The Steelers organization is a defining part of our region’s history and we’re so fortunate that it is built on a foundation of giving back to the community.”
For Will Allen, having his father a part of the community when he was growing up made him realize the importance of giving back. His father coached youth sports and Allen has always taken pride in seeing others benefit from his father’s leadership, as well as himself.
“He always taught me how to be humble,” said Allen of his father. “He would always teach me right from wrong, leadership, respecting others around me.
“I saw him be a role model and mentor in my neighborhood, helping kids become a better person. To see people come back and remember what Coach Allen said to help them means a lot. As a youngster I didn’t pay as much attention to him because I was hearing it every day. Once I got older I realized he had an impact on people’s lives from encouraging words.”
His father also stressed the importance of education to him, part of the reason he graduated from Ohio State University.
“One of the key moments I will remember in my life is when he sat me down as a youngster and would tell me about education, and the importance of education,” recalled Allen. “He would never let me bring a C in the home. Even though he was a diligent worker, he didn’t have a college education but he wanted one for me. He pushed me in sports, but especially in academics.”
The Mentoring Partnership serves 140 youth mentoring programs in the Pittsburgh region, including working with United Way agencies, and Allen hopes that others will reach out and become mentors.
“I ask you go out and pay it forward and mentor someone, especially a young person and teach them about life skills and how they can become better,” said Allen.
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When Will Allen set out to make a difference in the lives of young adults with his Quest for Real Life Success program in 2008, he probably never realized the impact he actually could have.
Allen initially launched the Quest program in Tampa, Florida when he played for the Buccaneers, working with students at King High School and Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School.
When he signed with the Steelers in 2010, he didn’t just bring his football talents with him, but also the program kicking it off at Westinghouse High School and this season taking it to North Hills High School in Pittsburgh and expanding to his alma mater, Wayne High School in Dayton, Ohio.
The after school mentoring program meets weekly, with Allen attending the North Hills meetings and using Skype to communicate with students in Dayton, to discuss topics to help them prepare for life after high school. The focus ranges from test taking skills, resume writing, job interview skills and more.
“I wanted to do something to help them be more proactive about their futures, to help them think outside the box and thinking more about being a young professional going into college,” said Allen. “I wanted to bridge the gap going from high school to college so they can be better decision makers, be more cognizant of opportunities and tools and resources that are available.
“A lot of high school kids might go through school and be a straight ‘A’ student, but they might not know about real life situations. Or there might be a student who does know about real life situations, but doesn’t know any tools or resources available to get advancement in life.”
The Quest program is a part of the Will Allen Foundation and also stresses the importance of community service, making sure students are well-rounded when they hit the real world.
“We have students now that graduated from college,” said Allen. “They were enthused and excited about what they learned and how they were able to utilize it in college and beyond. It’s just a way of giving wisdom, knowledge and understanding of situations to help out the youth of today for tomorrow.”
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