Sept 24, 2014
Former Baltimore Ravens star running back and New Rochelle High School alumni Ray Rice visited REACH Academy last school year. This visit was one of the highlights for the REACH Academy community. Ray Rice’s talk with the REACH Academy students and staff was motivating. His message was presented in a kind and authentic manner. His life story was inspiring in that he told eloquently of the many challenges he overcame to become an NFL player; a player who significantly contributed to the success of the Baltimore Ravens. These challenges were accented by the violent acts that took the lives of his father and his surrogate father.
He spoke of the many sacrifices his mother made to ensure Ray had the basics we tend to take for granted. Ray’s interaction with the REACH Academy student body was engaging, kind and supportive and uplifted the spirits of some of the students who are living their lives not so different from Ray’s past. Ray’s overall message was the demonstration of family values is the sign of success not necessarily the size of your paycheck. Despite his representative insisting that he conclude his interaction with our students, Rice continued for another hour signing memorabilia he provided for our students along with playing catch and taking pictures. It was a day to remember and had an indelible impact on all in attendance.
Recently, as you know, Ray committed a horrendous act that defies the family values he spoke of the day he visited REACH Academy. The second video that recently surfaced clearly displayed his violation of all and any family values and as a result, his $35 million contract was terminated and he was suspended from the NFL indefinitely. All videos and articles related to Ray were recently removed from the District website.
Our challenge now is how do we discuss Ray’s situation with the REACH Academy student body and overall school district community? First and foremost, clearly the act he committed was absolutely shocking, outrageous and should not be tolerated with consequences. With that being said, what are the next steps if any? Ray is a member of the New Rochelle community and greater Westchester County community and is a much smaller part of the REACH Academy community.
REACH Academy was founded on the concept of second chances. The REACH Academy student body hails from a variety of public and private middle schools and high schools where they were typically unsuccessful. For many students, REACH Academy is their last chance for an education and high school diploma. A second chance for our students usually consists of students recognizing and taking responsibility in part for prior education failures and forgiving staff in their past who may have failed them, accepting support including counseling and demonstrating their commitment to the rigors of an education that prepares them for the “Bridge to Adulthood”.
My hope for Ray is similar to my hope for the REACH Academy student body. Ray has begun to demonstrate responsibility for the violence he inflicted on his now wife, Janay Rice. Full responsibility does not only require saying “I’m sorry” but demands a willingness to change and seek the proper support such as counseling, surrounding himself with a circle of friends that have the family values he once implored REACH Academy community to embrace and continue expanding the Ray Rice Charitable Foundation which in part supports student with disabilities and students that are hospitalized.
My hope for Ray is that his life will change, that he once again is permitted to continue his career, support his family and that one day he revisits the REACH Academy.