Baltimore Ravens safety James Ihedigbo interrupted a routine school day with a visit to a Baltimore high school, challenging students to attend school each day and, as an extra motivation, dangled a chance for a seat at a Ravens game this season for students who respond to what he calls the “Diggz Attendance Challenge.”
On Oct. 15 at Ben Franklin High School in south Baltimore, nearly 300 students crowded into the auditorium to hear Ihedigbo, called Diggz in the locker room, encourage Baltimore youth to not only stay in school but to show up each day.
“This will encourage them to see the benefits of their attendance,” Ihedigbo told reporters. “When you miss school you are missing assignments and you’re giving up on your responsibility.”
He said, as a Ravens player, this was his opportunity to impact children.
“I hope we all can do it,” Jahmal Eggleston, 18, told the AFRO. “I already have perfect attendance, and the hopes of going to a football game for free is cool.”
During the hour-long speech, he told students that when he was growing up he knew that in order to achieve any goal, he would have to work hard.
“While my friends would have the summer off, I was in summer school getting my grades up because I knew I wanted to play college football,” he said.
“It was up to me to do the things I hoped to accomplish,” Ihedigbo told students.
Ihedigo will visit a total of 10 Baltimore City public high schools throughout the football season. The school with the best attendance wins the challenge. He will select a group of students from the winning school to receive VIP treatment at a Ravens game.
“One lucky school and a few lucky students will be my VIP guests when the Ravens play the Vikings on Dec. 8,” he said to the students. He didn’t give details about what VIP treatment will entail.
The winners will also be the subjects of an awards ceremony and a dinner hosted by Ihedigbo, who said he would probably bring some of his teammates along with him.
Its all about being able to give back to the students and encourage them and keep them moving in the right direction, he told the reporters who showed up to observe his visit at Ben Franklin.
“Let’s challenge each other and get this thing going,” he said.
Ben Franklin principal Chris Battaglia said the player’s “message was about education…and it was not about football, which I thought was really important.”
Ihedigbo said when you encourage students to stay in school, to meet the attendance challenge and do the required work, it helps improve their grades and they will see results.
“It shows them the benefits of being disciplined,” he said.
“To hear him talk strictly about education was a plus. He wanted kids to know what they needed to do to become a pro in the school, not in sports,” Battaglia told the AFRO.