Will Allen says he takes his job seriously. The job he is referring to is not as Safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, though he takes that job seriously as well. Will Allen is talking about giving back to the community. He told BTSC, "The Steelers are all bout community and outreach. The opportunity to make an impact on the Pittsburgh community and fans is a responsibility I take seriously."
How is Will Allen approaching this responsibility? Through the Will Allen Foundation, an organization that provides opportunities and resources to help young people reach their full potential. Allen has been giving back to his community since 2006, but in recent years his program has become more formalized.
The flagship program of the Will Allen Foundation is Quest for Real Life Success, a four-year program to steer high school students in a direction that leads to a productive, fulfilling life. Currently the program operates at several high schools in Pennsylvania and Allen's alma mater, Huber Heights High School in Ohio. The program focuses on the whole person, providing resources and mentorship to help students develop in terms of their education, future profession, physical fitness and health, emotional well-being, finances, and service to the community.
This is no cookie-cutter program. Will Allen told BTSC, "I have learned that not all the students are alike, and you have to meet the needs of students since they want to be creatively challenged." Allen said a sign the program is successful is that students apply what they have learned. He shared, "We would know the foundation has made an impact based on the students' character and how they've utilized the information in their lives."
One graduate of the program said, "Quest has given me an advantage in preparing for the world to come that I wish all students could have."
The students aren't the only ones experiencing personal growth during this process. Allen strives constantly to improve himself. "For my overall growth, I am always looking to challenge myself in every area that was asked. I love to read Christian books and books to help manage my life."
In addition to Quest, the Will Allen Foundation has a Purposeful Acts of Kindness program (PAK) that provides hope and encouragement children in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. This past December the foundation hosted an end-of-season banquet for the Wilkinsburg High School football team, who struggled through their season with only 13 players, four of whom were homeless.
The foundation also hosts a free Football Skills Camp and Holiday Giving Program. The giving initiative is unique insofar as the high school students from the Quest program take underprivileged children shopping to buy holiday gifts for the families. So, in addition to being on the receiving end of opportunity and resources, the Quest students learn to pay it forward.
"I am motivated to help my community," Allen told BTSC. He models generosity and instills those values in the students his foundation serves. Will Allen pointed out that everyone can make a difference in their community: "Any person can help out in the neighborhood by going to the Boys & Girls Club, United Way, Will Allen Foundation, or any church to ask if they need help. There are many that need help. It's up to the individual to go and do it!"
Meanwhile, Allen is also focused on his other job- safety for the Black and Gold. He shared, "My deepest hope is that we make it to the SB and win!" In addition to appreciating the Steelers commitment to community, Allen noted, "What I love most about the Steelers is the close-knit group and continuity of a winning tradition."
Allen has been in the league since 2004, having played for the Buccaneers and Cowboys in addition to two stints with the Black and Gold. At 33, the three-time Pro Bowler is one of the older players on the Steelers squad. He does not take his longevity and success for granted, saying, "What's surprised me the most about my career is that I've been blessed and humbled to have played this long. It truly has surprised me, but I also expect to excel while I'm in position."
On and off the field, Allen always strives for personal excellence. He said, "It's very important to challenge yourself." In challenging himself, Allen is contributing to the winning tradition of the Black and Gold and helping the young people in the community develop into the leaders of tomorrow.
For more information about the Will Allen Foundation, visit www.willallenfoundation.com