When coach Joe Judge split the Giants into a "team of teams" this offseason, each group was assigned an area and a question: What can you do to help the community?
Well, 2020 provided plenty of options.
Linebacker Lorenzo Carter and his team took them into consideration and concluded they wanted to find a way to make an immediate impact. That led them to the United Way of New York City, particularly its EducateNYC program, which works in 45 elementary, middle and high schools to help youth reach the goal of on-time graduation, while preparing them for college or a career.
"Knowledge is power," Carter said. "We know that right now, and we know that if we can educate kids and educate other people that look like us, then we can possibly bring them up and give them opportunities that they didn't even know that they had."
Despite limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Giants still managed to stay connected virtually with the Brownsville community in Brooklyn.
"I think everything in this time has just been a challenge trying to figure out how to navigate, but thanks to the Giants and United Way of New York City, we've had a chance to actually get on zoom calls with these kids and actually get to talk to them," Carter said. "I'm from Atlanta, and being from the South, I don't realize everything that they're going through up here, all the different problems that they're dealing with in the city and in Brooklyn. That was one of the big things for us – we wanted to get a chance to talk to the kids and understand where they're coming from so we know how to help better."
In addition to the mentorships, the Giants contributed $7,500 to UWNYC. The donation was split evenly between PS 165 and Brownsville Academy High School. A portion went toward personal protective equipment (PPE), while the rest went to providing gift cards to families in need.
"Through EducateNYC, we're able to work with underserved communities and take high-need schools and transform them into neighborhood hubs," said Nina Stovel, director of education for United Way of NYC. "We have health clinics, afterschool services, food pantries and parent education classes that can happen on-site because we know that schools and communities are inextricably linked."
The initiative is part of a 25-year-old partnership between the Giants and UWNYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping low-income New Yorkers make ends meet and lead self-sufficient lives.
"We've been able to greatly impact communities together," Stovel said. "But this project, this initiative, really allows us to do so much more. The notoriety of these players really spreads our message all across the country. So we're able to spread and share awareness – the social justice, the educational inequities and inequalities that our communities are facing."
"This hits home for me," said Victor Cruz, who moderated a virtual conversation with Carter and Stovel, "because places like Brownsville, where you guys are giving back, it's similar to Paterson, New Jersey, where I grew up. They're very underserved communities with people that need more. They need more resources."
It all starts with just letting the students know that someone cares about them. And this "team of teams" does.
"That was just real because a lot of times there are programs where people just like to put their name on it, but this isn't going to be one of those," Carter said. "We wanted to let those kids know that early and often. We're going to be here for you. We're going to be the mentor-type figures that you want, and we're going to let them know that we go through problems. We're regular people, too. We had the same problems. Just because we're running around on the field on Sunday doesn't mean we don't have to go home and deal with different stuff."