KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The challenge of playing in the National Football League is tall. However, it’s tiny compared to the tests many kids confront every day.
That’s why the Kansas City Chiefs linked up with students in need of support on Tuesday, using teleconferencing to deliver fun and encouragement.
Life lessons from the top make major impacts: That’s the overall mission behind the NFL’s Character Playbook, a series of positive lessons delivered by Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley and Chiefs cheerleader Lakeyna.
Students at 19 schools across Missouri and Kansas interacted with the two via teleconferencing, including 900 of them at Gateway Sixth Grade Center in Kansas City’s Northland.
“Waive your rally towels,” Conley grinned, as the presentation began.
The receiver and his cheerleader colleague infused fun with their strong influence to get their message across Tuesday.
“Have patience, and rely on those people you trust,” Conley advised, as classrooms filled with students took in the Chiefs’ message from a television screen.
“It’s a good idea to go to a trusted adult,” Lakeyna instructed. “We all need someone we can bounce ideas off.”
Antoinette Chrisafulli, a sixth-grade teacher at the school, knows this age group well. She’s surrounded by hundreds of preteens all day and understands the influence celebrities, such as the pair from Arrowhead Stadium, can have on young people.
Chrisafulli enjoyed having students take in messages that battle bullying, building inner strength and challenging middle-schoolers to choose their friends wisely.
“It’s just that impactful new person they get to see on TV all the time,” Chrisafulli told FOX4.
“Now, with social media and all the online accounts and cyber-bullying, it’s great for them to have the positive role model that, even in this time and this day and age, we can be good to others,” Chrisafulli said.
The Gateway students were among the crowd who used the same teleconferencing system to ask Lakeyna and Conley questions of their own. The sixth-graders said they enjoyed having a moment to interact with people they looked up to and voices of experience as well.
“Maybe I thought about sometimes I haven’t surrounded myself with the nicest people. Maybe I thought about surrounding myself with nicer people to make me feel better about myself,” Sofia Hadjian, a Gateway sixth grader, said Tuesday.
“There are people out there who care about you, and they’re there if you need them,” said Tolden Christus, another Gateway student. “Then you can know if you’re in a tight situation, you always know where to find the ones you can trust.”
Educators often point to the middle school demographic as being most at-risk for bullying. The Gateway kids FOX4 talked with say these lessons made a bigger impact since they came from the Chiefs.
The United Way of Greater Kansas City is a co-sponsor of the NFL Character Playbook. This is the third time players have used teleconferencing to connect with kids in metro classrooms.