Friday, January 28, 2011

Rally Inspires, Honors Mentoring Programs

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON--When it comes to the life of a troubled kid, sometimes it only takes a few minutes to change that life, said Ron Burton Jr., the son of former New England Patriot Ron Burton Sr. who considered himself a loser until a football scout gave him a tiny piece of encouragement.
"Mayor (Linda) Balzotti said earlier that one hour of your time can change a life--sometimes it only takes a few minutes," Burton said during Brockton Promise's third annual Mentor Recruitment Rally and ceremony to honor the youth alliance's mentor of the year held Thursday night Jan. 27 at the Shaw's Center.
More than 300 people involved in the city's numerous youth organizations gathered to hear keynote speaker Burton and to celebrate the hard work of hundreds of mentors throughout the city and region.
Along with Burton, speakers included Balzotti, Police Chief William Conlon, School Superintendent Matthew Malone, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz, and humorous Master of Ceremonies Dennis Carman, head of United Way of Plymouth County.
The rally also named BrocktonPromise’s Mentor of the Year, Mike Williams, who has been a football coach with Brockton’s midget football league since 1992. He was one of seven nominees for this year’s Exceptional Mentoring Awards.
The other nominees were Patricia Godio, Sharon Conant, Sarah Stewart, Alisha Tagger, Mario Lamarre and Jennifer White.
Jay Miller, deputy assistant director of the Boys and Girls Club of Brockton, said this year’s nominees were solely chosen by the teenagers and youngsters they have mentored. He said it is the third year of the award and the two years prior mentorees and adults in various programs had nominated individuals for the honor. Mentor of the year winner Williams was nominated by Louis Jacoubs and Derek Williams who wrote, “The lessons he teaches are something hundreds of us will keep long after we leave the field."
Williams, 40, a Brockton native and lifelong football player and coach, said he was overwhelmed with the award and wouldn’t trade-in for anything working with young players on the field, in the gym and as a friend with life experience.
“They keep me going. They keep me young. They keep me moving. I’ve been blessed,” Williams said.
Williams was presented a plaque and a medal by Bridgewater State University President Dana Mohler-Faria. (Williams is pictured at left in top photo with Mohler-Faria)
Coach Mike is just one of hundreds who are a part of Brockton's Promise,which was initiated in 2003 and is modeled after the national America's Promise--a partnership of hundreds of social services, civic groups, hospitals, businesses, police, district attorneys, churches and schools working to promise young people certain things. Brockton's alliance developed five promises to area youth: safe places to live and play, caring adult mentors, access to resources for healthy lives, educational opportunities and ways to give back.
The highlight of many highlights during the evening was Burton’s presentation of how his father Ron Burton Sr. rose from poverty, social cruelty and an admitted lack of athletic ability and size to success in the NFL and in life with the Ron Burton Training Village for inner-city boys.
“He was poor, puny, slow and weak,” Burton said. “When there was a pickup game—he wasn’t the last one picked—he wasn’t picked,” he said.
Burton—whose brother is Steve Burton on WBZ News—said his father’s turnaround came in 8th grade when after riding the bench for two years without a moment of playing time was put in during the last game of the year in the final minutes when all of the other players ahead of him had suffered injuries serious enough that the coach had no choice but to put Burton in.
Burton had to run for 2 yards to ice the game. He ran for 10 and was surprised after the game when a college scout watching other marquee players told young Burton that he wasn’t fast, wasn’t especially athletically gifted, and small, but the scout said he had not seen such determination in a player in many, many years.
Burton said the scout advised his father to do two things: don’t ever take the summer off from conditioning and be conditioned to the point where a 7-mile run is easy.
The rest is history. Burton Sr.—who never drank or smoked or did drugs-- went on to be a high school All-American, broke numerous rushing records at Northwestern University and was the NFL’s overall number one draft pick and was picked number one overall by then Boston Patriots where he played from 1961 to 1965.
Mike Turner, a 17-year-old Brockton High School senior, is one of 133 inner-city boys who attend the Ron Burton Training Village in Hubbardston during the summer where physical challenges—such Ron Sr.’s life-changing 7-mile run—are coupled with Bible studies and SAT courses.
“It’s one of the best programs I can imagine,” Turner said.

No comments:

Post a Comment