Rams’ Jared Cook Gives Hope for At-Risk Communities

Rams TE Jared Cook joins forces with the Van Duzer Foundation to support At-Risk Communities through the Restoring the Village initiative

Jared Cook Rams

What started as a grassroots, local effort to help kids stay off the streets has turned into a national model for saving lives and creating brighter futures. Led by the Gulfstream Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Scott Van Duzer has put together a team of individuals who may just change the mindset of a generation. In 2013, Van Duzer and a group of volunteers worked tirelessly to create an opportunity for at-risk adolescent males to become engaged in Boy Scouting. The students who attended a school for students with behavioral and academic issues, lived almost exclusively in the most dangerous and violent, gang-riddled areas of St. Lucie County, Florida. Sixty boys initially expressed a desire to become Boy Scouts through Troop 772, named for the area code of its location, and a year later, the improvement to the boys’ grades, attitudes, and lives was astonishing enough to capture the attention and interest of officials in St. Louis, Missouri, where racial issues are prominent and touchy.

Jared Cook Rams Van Duzer, a local business owner in Fort Pierce, assembled a team which included a mayor, police chief, county commissioner, congressman, fire chief, and member of the Florida House of Representatives. Last month, the team got a lot stronger when Jared Cook, tight end for the St. Louis Rams, came on board and agreed to be the voice of the program, which is called Restoring the Village. Cook, who is halfway through a five-year contract with the St. Louis Rams, has been active in several communities including St. Louis, Atlanta, Columbia and Nashville and decided to join the St. Lucie County team of Restoring the Village as the national spokesperson to offer his voice in assistance and support.

The program is very close to Jared’s heart, and he was deeply touched when asked to be a voice for the Restoring the Village Initiative. Cook understands firsthand how exposure to positive environments and positive leaders can change the path of a child immediately.

Cook and the team immediately got to work, traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with individuals from My Brother’s Keeper, a national initiative to help youth stay on track. Goals of My Brother’s Keeper include making sure children enter school cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally ready, ensuring they read at grade level by third grade, ensuring graduation and post-secondary education or training, ensuring that youth out of school are employed and remain safe from violent crime. While in Washington, D.C., Cook, who was the 2012 Walter Payton Award Winner for the Tennessee Titans, was recognized by Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy for his dedication and continued involvement to community service and his latest affiliation with Restoring the Village and Team 772.Jared Cook Rams

After meeting with leaders from My Brother’s Keeper in Washington, D.C., to discuss collaboration, the team traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to meet with local leaders to help them establish Boy Scout Troops like Troop 772. Because of the success of Troop 772, a number of communities, including Ferguson, Missouri, have expressed interest in replicating the model. Indeed, after meeting with Van Duzer earlier this year, six new 772 Team Boy Scout troops were created in Ferguson and the surrounding communities.

Next up for Jared Cook, Scott Van Duzer, and the rest of the Restoring the Village team are meetings in Selma, Alabama, Plant City, Florida, and Richmond, Virginia, have already created troops modeled after 772, and Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, and Miami, Florida, have expressed interest in replicating the model and creating hope and a future for children. With Cook as a spokesperson, Van Duzer and the team hope to see real change occur. Van Duzer’s own foundation has long run on the words of philanthropist Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small, thoughtful group of committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing which ever has.” This small, thoughtful group has big plans to help change the world for children now and into the future.

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