Ready to get dirty in their emerald green jerseys and bright orange work out shorts, four Florida A&M University football players walked in a gym full of screaming pre-teens at Fairview Middle School.
Tight ends Max Purcell and Brandon Hepburn, offensive lineman Corey Dawe and defensive lineman Cameron Houston were ready to work with the children.
“Studies first, studies first, school first,” screams Nancy Higgins, a coordinator for the 21st Century Community Learning Center at the middle school.
Higgins’ eyes sparkled as she spoke to the attendees.
The students were ecstatic to see the football players ready to participate in their after school program.
Higgins has been living in Tallahassee most of her life.
She has dedicated herself to helping the children in the community succeed.
“We are trying to instill confidence in each kid,” said Higgins. “We want them to be able to pick a job they want, and not the job someone gives them.”
Sitting behind her desk in a big room full of books waiting to be read by students, Higgins is in her element.
Higgins’ passion and personality bounces off her frame, which she said was never was never tall enough for basketball.
But it never stops her from shooting some hoops from time to time and with the kids who attend the after school program.
“That is what we are trying to do. Get the kids to compete against themselves,” said Higgins. “One second faster, doing one more sit-up than the last time,” she further explained.
Higgins athletics is a part of her arsenal to get the children to compete in everything they do, especially when it comes to reading.
“Our kids don’t read anymore,” said Higgins.
The FAMU football team will participate in the “Real Men Read” and “Champions” programs at Fairview Middle School.
Every Wednesday afternoon this month, the players will play active team games with the kids including exercise drills which will hopefully encourage the students through the “Champions” program.
Then, on April 30, at “Real Men Read” the players will all bring a book to read aloud to the students, and participate in a forum about the importance of reading and getting a college education especially as student-athletes. Higgins wants to encourage students, especially boys, to regularly read.
Higgins’ passionate words about helping the children flies from her mouth like a 90-yard pass thrown for a touchdown at a football game.
“They need to know that it is good to read. They don’t have to be a dork, or a nerd or un-cool because they read,” Higgins said.