For a day, about 20 students from East Chicago Central get to hang out with a couple NFL players.
And that’s great fun.
But Thursday was an educational experience, as well, and that’s the part that Kawann Short, an ECC grad, and Kevin Pamphile enjoy, seeing teenagers get an opportunity to tour Purdue during a campus visit.
“They’re a good group of kids and are really focused on learning,” said Short, who organizes the annual tour through Athletes for Charity and is joined by friends and former Boilermakers Pamphile and Anthony Heygood. “So a lot of the (academic) seminars we went to today, they were paying attention and asking questions, which is rare to see with kids. They want to see the football stadium, things like that. But in the classroom, they were asking about résumés, all sorts of questions like that.”
It’s that opportunity that the Purdue trio wants to provide. Football gave them a chance, frequently offering free trips — on official visits — to see athletic facilities and academic opportunities.
But most ECC students are unlikely to get those chances, so that’s why Short sends out invitations every year to get a busload down to Purdue. The group left East Chicago at about 6 a.m., got to campus a couple hours later and started its tour, talking to advisors, seeing the campus — on a blustery day — and checking out the football facilities. They even stopped by Coach Jeff Brohm’s office, where the first-year coach took time to talk for a few minutes.
“It’s always amazing their expressions when they’re on campus the first day,” said Pamphile, a starting left guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “They’re excited and have so many questions to ask you. They want to know about your day-to-day, how was it when you were a student? You’ve got to tell them that life is tough, you’ve got long hours studying, but it’s encouraging to see that they want to know because they want to experience college life when they get to this point.”
Short, a starter at defensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers, has always been willing to give back to his community. He’s held tours for several years now, plus has book drives and a free football camp in East Chicago.
“I wish someone would have done this when I was young, to help me see that there’s more to East Chicago than just crossing tracks,” Short said. “You come down an hour-and-a-half and it’s a whole new environment, a different culture, different personalities. To see that and get away from home for a while, it makes you wonder what else is out there in the world.”
In Haiti, too
Pamphile likes to help out wherever he can, including in his parents’ native Haiti.
And in February, he got an opportunity to travel there for the first time, seeing the children whose lives he’s working to improve. He handed out books and other school supplies, items he’d been shipping over for years, but now had a chance to hand out in person.
“They’re excited, they’re happy to see someone who cares and wants to help them out,” said Pamphile, the president of Athletes for Haiti. “For them, it’s a struggle. Education isn’t free down there. Books are outdated. We want to make sure they have the best-quality books to learn and make sure the teachers are able to have the equipment to teach the kids as well as possible.”
The country, in many places, is impoverished, suffering through poor economy and aftereffects of natural disasters, like the massive earthquake displaced tens of thousands in 2010.
He’ll be back in Haiti in July to deliver more supplies and host a football camp.
“For me, I’d adopted (them),” he said. “… All the kids are like family, so I want to go back and help them out.”
Short feels comfortable, now more so than ever, with donating, because he’s more financially secure.
The fifth-year Pro Bowl tackle was franchise tagged by Carolina in February, meaning he’ll make approximately $13.6 million in 2017, unless sides can reach a long-term deal before July 14.
“I feel great about the whole situation,” he said. “It ain’t like they cut me, so that’s the least of the worries. They want me around and that’s what you want, you want to feel wanted. We’re just trying to figure out what’s next, if we’re going to get a contract done this year. If not, a franchise tag is good.”
Short wants to continue to give.
“Every time I’ve done this I’ve never had a problem with swiping my card or anything,” he said. “Because I feel like we need it. These kids are our future.”
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