By: Laura Zablit
“Whose first Raiders game is this?” Children’s hands shot up in Oracle Arena last Sunday when, before the Raiders vs Buffalo Bills game, more than 100 students from the Oakland Unified School District responded to legendary Raider’s alumnus, Willie Brown’s question.
Brown spoke to the students in celebration of the day’s First and Goal event. As part of a 43 year partnership with the NFL, and with support from the Raiders Foundation, United Way brought four buses of students and chaperones to attend the game, eat sack lunches, and attend a pregame chalk talk with Willie Brown. For most of them, it was their first time seeing their home team play.
“I think this will be one of the most memorable moments in their childhood,” Nikita Williams said, sitting on the steps of the arena, keeping a watchful eye on her many young students. Williams is the Garfield Elementary Program Director who helped orchestrate the day. She said students had been calling her that weekend in anticipation of the event, double-checking that they had the meeting time correct. She also received calls from parents, expressing gratitude for sending their children to the game.
“There is plenty of youth that never get the opportunity to attend a live sporting event or have the opportunity to meet their ‘idols,’” Williams explained. “The players are an inspiration and role models to the youth. They inspire the children and enforce the the belief that with the mindset and with hard work, anything is possible!”
When Willie Brown spoke to the students before the game, he emphasized hard work and education as the keys to success. “You’re here for a reason. What is that reason? You gotta find it,” he exclaimed. “That’s how you get ahead. By learning and listening. Trying to do the very best you can.”
Katie Nicely, Chief Development Officer of UWBA, also spoke to the students before the game, explaining a bit of what United Way is all about. “We’re proud to partner with the fantastic role models at the NFL, who remind us of the importance of hard work, teamwork, and determination,” she said from underneath layers of the Raiders’ trademark black and silver team colors. “By sharing their time, resources, expertise and laughter, the NFL players also show us what it means to support our local community members.” A number of United Way Emerging Leaders also joined the the group for the day, including Justin Davis. “It’s fun to see to see just how happy it makes the kids to come out to a game like this,” he said.
From the bleachers of the stadium, students cheered as their local heroes battled the Bills on a sunny day. “We’re gonna win today! I can feel it,” one student said. When another student walked into the stadium for the first time, he said he “felt kind of amazed, because I can have the chance to be watching a legend of the Raiders!” “RAIDER NATION!” they all shouted.
The Raiders beat the Bills 38 to 24.