This month POPP kicked off our third annual “Character and Leadership Development” competition with six competing football teams in Cobb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties. Each coach selected sixteen team leaders and we meet once a week for eight weeks, as they go through their Summer practices and workouts. The campaign culminates with a community event where all the players and coaches, as well as families and community leaders, will come together to reward and celebrate these young men who are striving to become positive role models and use their influence for peace in their classrooms, hallways, and communities.

Every day the players read quotes from iconic world changing athletes, and every week they meet with their POPP Squads and Power Partners to hold one another accountable, and work to complete the daily Action Challenges together. In the second half of the Protect the Dream campaign they will create a three-minute video on one of the “Seven Dream Killers” that they want to tackle at their school (bullying, irresponsible social media, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.) These videos will be featured at our POPP Graduation Celebration on August 11th at NorthStar Church, where all the teams will be competing for our “Dream Team” award given to the team who makes the most positive community impact. The players are also competing against one another for our biggest prize: The Mason Legacy Award for the outstanding character athlete. These videos will be circulated throughout the student body to show that there is a new standard that the student-athletes are striving to live up to and model for the young ones coming up after them.

This Summer we are also bringing on teams from Selma, AL and Benton Harbor, MI. If we are going to turn the dangerous tide of violence, self-harm, and risky behavior toward peace, compassion, and acceptance in our schools, it must start with the students who are already leading the way. Together, they can begin to shift school culture and change “what cool looks like” on their campus.