When you're a professional athlete in Philadelphia, the spirit of the city never leaves you.
Three-time Pro Bowl safety, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and former Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins executed a day-long initiative on Friday, September 16, giving back to the community.
"I want the community to know I'm not going, I'm still here," Jenkins said, still a Philadelphia resident. "The commitment to community work really had nothing to do with me being on the field. That was a forever thing. I love to give back to the places that I consider home."
The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation was started in 2010 with a mission to effectuate change in underserved communities starting from the ground up.
"We didn't want to create our own programs and then impose that on a community," Jenkins said." We wanted to go in and figure out what the need was and that requires us to be very adjustable, and to really meet people where they are."
The day kicked off in Camden, New Jersey, with Jenkins' "Get Ready Fest," an effort that prepares and equips students with all of their back-to-school necessities. Jenkins stands firmly in the belief that every child deserves a chance.
"It's a busy day, a lot of giving," Jenkins said. "But we've done a great job of really building great partners. It's a whole village of support that we bring right into the communities that have been so good to me."
By the end of the day, 1,000 people were served.
Jenkins' day continued at Simon Gratz High School in Philadelphia. Members of the Eagles' front office staff, Loraine Griffiths, Christian Molnar, and Darien Moore spoke on a panel created for students to learn more about career opportunities in sports.
The 13-year NFL veteran said that mentorship and people investing in him throughout his life allowed him to dream big, pursue his passions, and chase after whatever brought purpose to his life.
"That's where we meet these kids right now," Jenkins said. "At that place where they need encouragers, they need people with vision to speak life into them, to show them things about themselves that they might not know yet, skills that they have that they don't know that they can monetize or live off of – all of that's important in development and hopefully we're doing that through this program."
At Simon Gratz, the students were also surprised with a pep rally hosted by Jenkins, the Eagles Cheerleaders, and SWOOP for a fun afternoon.
Simon Gratz Principal Letisha Laws said, "I think people do not understand that there are so many things that go into being a school – it's not just about the academic component. It's a social, emotional component, it's a resource for the community, it's the advocacy."
Laws couldn't have been more thrilled for both her school and her students to be embraced by Jenkins and the Eagles.
"It's just amazing to know that the sports team that everybody in Philadelphia is super proud of and connected to is willing to pause and say, the 900 students at Gratz mean something to them, and they want to say, 'Continue the good work, here's something to motivate you to stay focused, stay in school, and talk about mentorship,'" Laws said.
The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation also partnered with Old Spice and its "School of Swagger" initiative. It's a 10-year mission to help increase high school graduation rates by 10 percent. Old Spice believes that the rate of high school student dropouts can be lowered by working to build confidence and create lasting, positive, and impactful personal and academic relationships through mentorship.
It was a no-brainer for the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation to join forces with this instrumental brand.
"It's hard to imagine things you haven't seen before," Jenkins reflected. "So when kids are trying to look at themselves in a certain way, and don't have the examples – sometimes that's a tall task to tell somebody to just imagine something out of thin air."
Jenkins always leaves the kids he serves with words of encouragement, striving to help them understand their full potential.
"My message is always that I was no more special than the rest of the kids in my class. I was given some talents, but every kid has some talent, whether it be in athletics, academics, arts, creatives– it's just about finding that and tapping into it and blessing the world with that talent."
Check out the photos of Eagles legend Malcolm Jenkins visiting Simon Gratz High School as part of the Old Spice School of Swagger initiative.