Longhorn Leaders program recognized at Texas State Capitol
A celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Greater Austin Crime Commission and the work of some Longhorns athletes through The University of Texas School of Social Work took center stage at the State Capitol Monday, as both the House and the Senate of the 80th Texas Legislature took time to salute the program.
Former Longhorns football All-American Cory Redding, a franchise player for the Detroit Lions who has returned to school to finish his degree in education, was joined by UT basketball players Katrina Robinson and Kevin Durant and Longhorns head football coach Mack Brown for the ceremony. Also joining the group was Ralph Wayne, chairman of the Greater Austin Crime Commission, and Dr. Michael Lauderdale, the Clara Pope Willoughby Centennial Professor in Criminal Justice, who is the founder of the program through the UT School of Social Work.
"Growing up in Houston and during my time at college here in Austin and my time in the NFL in Detroit, I have seen a lot," Redding said. "You see the demographics of the kids in these cities and you see the poverty in a lot of those areas. Longhorn Leaders provided me with the opportunity to be a source of guidance to these kids.
"I wanted to be a part of this program," Redding continued. "We don't have enough role models out there. It's our responsibility to get involved with programs like these so we can channel some positive reinforcement to the youth. We have to do more for these kids, because they are our future."
The first freshman in NCAA men's basketball history to earn consensus National Player of the Year honors, Durant's decision to join Longhorn Leaders was a no-brainer.
"I've learned so much from being a part of Longhorn Leaders," Durant continued. "I feel like I'm the one who has gained from being involved in the program. It forced me to learn how to really talk to kids and get your message across to them. I know I've become a better public speaker because of the work we've done in Longhorn Leaders."
WHEREAS, Founded in 1997, the Greater Austin Crime Commission has contributed to the quality of life in Central Texas with innovative and outstanding public safety programs such as the Longhorn Leaders; and
WHEREAS, Developed by the commission and The University of Texas School of Social Work, in cooperation with the UT Athletic Department and the Austin Independent School District, the Longhorn Leaders youth outreach program facilitates dialogue between university athletes and seventh grade students; and
WHEREAS, Middle school youth are at a crucial developmental point as they prepare to transition into later adolescence and early adulthood, and at the same time, they face a variety of new stressors, from stronger peer influences to greater access to drugs and alcohol; positive reference groups, however, can go a long way in counteracting potential negative forces, and university athletes are especially effective role models because of their visibility in college sports and their proximity in age to the students; and
WHEREAS, During the course of a semester, Longhorn Leaders give several personal presentations at each school, emphasizing the importance of strong goals, academic excellence, and successful life skills; moreover, they promote the values of teamwork, discipline, and living drug-free; athletes receive course credit for participating in the program, which, since fall 2003, has been offered at seven middle schools and three elementary schools in areas all over Austin; and
WHEREAS, Current and former Longhorn Leaders include LaMarcus Aldridge, D. J. Augustin, Cedric Benson, Jamaal Charles, Kevin Durant, Daniel Gibson, Cedric Griffin, Michael Griffin, Damion James, Seth Johnson, Derek Lokey, Cory Redding, Terrence Rencher, Sonya Richards, Aaron Ross, Kasey Studdard, Limas Sweed, Roy Williams, and Vince Young, to name but a few; and
WHEREAS, Encouraging meaningful community interaction between UT athletes, students, parents, teachers, and law enforcement, the Longhorn Leaders program has benefited countless participants, and the Greater Austin Crime Commission is truly deserving of recognition for its exemplary efforts to support public safety and youth development; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the 80th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby congratulate the Greater Austin Crime Commission on its 10th anniversary and commend all those associated with it for their work to develop and implement public safety programs such as the Longhorn Leaders; and, be it further
RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared for the Greater Austin Crime Commission as an expression of high regard by the Texas House of Representatives and Senate.