Standing nearly six feet tall, Seneca Valley football players can be pretty intimidating, especially to those in their first year of school.
But the group of athletes are showing a softer side.
“The players come,” said Ali Hashemzadeh, Founder of The ACE Project. “They read to the students and just have a good time. [They] have some positive interactions and enjoy themselves. Hopefully, they learn from the experience as well.”
The ACE Project embodies its name: Athletes helping the community achieve excellence.
Seneca Valley’s Assistant Football Coach founded the non-profit a year ago.
“Kids are out wandering around — Not all of them, but some of them,” said Hashemzadeh. “I saw an opportunity to get them involved in the community, and, hopefully, they learn from the experience.”
The project’s effects are two-fold by inspiring youth to get involved while encouraging current athletes to serve as good role models for the community.
“Football is bigger than what it really is. It’s not just about the X’s and O’s,” said Darius Golston, Seneca Valley football player. “Little kids really look-up to us, so we really have to be an example. So, when they come up, they know what to do and not just do anything they want.”
“I love seeing them (kids) any day,” said Lance Wilson, Seneca Valley football player.
ACE athletes serve in a variety of ways, including helping out with mentoring programs and beautification projects.
“The big vision would be to have a community center in Germantown, centrally-located where the kids could have a place to go to every day,” said Hashemzadeh.