During an afternoon practice this week, the 49ers invited 50 members from the Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) program out to watch a practice closed to the public, enjoy dinner with the entire team, and share life stories with one another.
FLY helps at-risk teens in trouble learn to make healthy decisions by providing the youth with vital information regarding the decisions they make in their lives and also connects them with well-trained mentors who listen.
Associate Director of FLY, Aila Malik, discussed what her youth were getting out of the day's events.
"They are both learning from the players as to how to be community heroes and imparting some knowledge from their lives about how they were able to overcome mistakes that they made in their lives," said Malik. "I think for them, the connection with the players, people they see on TV that they look up to, to humanize them and hopefully hear some of their struggles and how they used their determination to get where they are will really help our kids long term."
49ers tight end Delanie Walker enjoyed sitting down with the youth and spoke to them how he relates to the FLY kids' past experiences.
"Me growing up personally, I went through some of the same things they went through about getting in trouble, but I overcame it by going to school, going to college and just being a better person and wanting to be an athlete when I grew up," said Walker. "That's basically what we talked about. I tried to listen to everyone's story and go from there."
While having the opportunity to see a closed practice and sit down face-to-face with some of their favorite professional athletes in itself is an experience of a lifetime, two of the FLY members were given an additional special treat.
Members Nico and Stephanie, attended the evening team meeting session following dinner and were given the opportunity to speak in front of every player and coach in the building to give their life story.
Despite being nervous to address the packed room of professional athletes and coaches, Nico felt it was important to share his story mainly to encourage the players to be a helping hand to someone in need.
"Mainly to give back. I didn't really have anyone there when I was young to talk to or a mentor or father figure there. FLY program is a way to give back and being here telling them how they can make such a change in someone's life and all they have to do is try."
The players also heard from Santa Clara Chief Probation Officer Sheila Mitchell and Probation Manager Mike Simms from the William F. James Boys Ranch about the importance of staying out of trouble for both their kids and the players in addition to what it means to a child to have a mentor or someone to look up to that can help to create positive futures for the youth.
To end out the program, 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary addressed the players and encouraged them to take part in such organizations as FLY during their time spent off-the-field to further help make a positive impact on people's lives in our community.
Fresh Lifelines for Youth helps teens in trouble learn to make healthy decisions. The organization provides at-risk and disadvantaged youth with vital information regarding the decisions they make in their lives and also connects them with well-trained mentors who listen. FLY gives its graduates the opportunity to advance to a leadership program where they use their knowledge and skills to give back to their communities. One of FLY's programs, a year-long one, has a striking 85% success rate at one tenth the cost of incarceration.