DANVILLE, Va. – Averett University football players are helping middle school students in Danville learn how to be leaders.
The effort is part of a program the university began about a year ago with elementary school students as a way to give back to the community.
As sixth-graders at Bonner Middle School walked in to the school's auditorium Thursday, they received a standing ovation from the Averett University football players.
The players have been serving as mentors for the students for about two weeks.
Every week this semester, players will spend time with the students.
Omar Farrag is one of those students.
"Today was very inspiring and I think it will change a lot of things that we can do in the school this year," Farrag said.
For him, the biggest takeaway from Thursday's speeches by the football players was their message about individuality and leadership.
"Don't be afraid to be yourself and don't be afraid to be a leader," Farrag said.
Averett's head football coach, Cleive Adams, shared his experience of growing up in a trailer and how being surrounded by people who cared about him helped him overcome his challenges.
"We hope that our availability, our mentorship, is going to make a difference in the lives of these young men," Adams said.
Danville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Stan Jones also had some strong words for the students.
"Too many young folks are dying, period, over nonsense," Jones said emphatically as he addressed the students in the auditorium.
A powerful message that may be just what the students needed to hear.
Adams said he plans to continue the program next semester and for as long as possible after that.