By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
On Tuesday morning, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix arrived at Benjamin Franklin Elementary to launch his foundation’s first ever HERO Headquarters. He was welcomed by students and teachers alike with cheers, excitement and, above all, a sense of appreciation.
“It’s a dream come true,” Clinton-Dix said. “[I get] to be an icon kids look up to in school, not just football.”
Clinton-Dix plays football for the Green Bay Packers. Currently, he’s their safety and sports jersey number 21. In addition to playing in the national league, he’s in his senior year of college and attends the University of Alabama, where he’s studying criminal justice according to ESPN.
It’s clear that education is a priority of his and he’s working hard to make it others too. He recently started the Ha Ha HERO Foundation which aims to provide students who face economically challenged lives with the proper resources and motivation to continue their education and lead positive lives, according to the foundation’s website.
As part of the initiative, the foundation and its sponsors, Quarles & Brady and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), reached out to schools to bring a HERO Headquarters to them.
Ha Ha’s HERO Headquarters is the name allotted to the room or space the foundation revitalizes. In the case of Benjamin Franklin Elementary, they found a storage room and turned it into an “oasis” for reading. There are roughly 600 books, bean bag chairs and other resources designed to create a peaceful atmosphere.
“Reading has always been a passion of mine,” he said.
HMH provided the books and gave an additional to each child as a gift, as part of their efforts to promote, “lifelong learners.”
During the launch, Clinton-Dix spoke to the students about the importance of education. As they waved their yellow and green pom-poms he told them how he was once like them.
He explained that as a child he didn’t put a lot of effort towards his education, instead he played the role of class clown, assuming he’d catch up on school “later on.”
When later finally came, Clinton-Dix found himself struggling. He wished someone had pushed him harder like how he’s pushing younger generations.
Clinton-Dix managed to secure a spot at the University of Alabama, and learned how to balance school work and football.
“I had to prove myself,” he said, “as a football player and a student.”
Katie Perhach, from Quarles & Brady, stressed how Clinton-Dix is “truly providing the spark” these students need. In addition to providing resources, he’s a good role model.
“You are a leader on the football field and off the football field,” Perhach said.
As part of the event, Clinton-Dix also read to a select group of students Curious George Joins The Team, where George plays games with his friends. This resulted in a few matches of tic-tac-toe of Clinton-Dix versus various students.
Principal Sara Hmielewski likewise expressed her gratitude to Clinton-Dix. She’s looking forward to seeing the progress the children make and is happy Clinton-Dix can be their icon.
“Just get reading,” she said, “We need to have our students reading.”
Before the students returned to class, Clinton-Dix sat down on the carpet in the HERO Headquarters, answered their questions and gave them advice.
“I had a dream, I had a goal, I had somewhere I wanted to be,” he said.
He also told them to listen to their teachers, attend class on time, stay focused, stay dedicated, be respectful and “be the best you can be.”
He knows better than most, just how far their education can take them.
“One day I know football will end,” he said, “but my education and degree will never be taken away from me.”
In this upcoming year, Clinton-Dix plans to not only finish his education but open two more HERO Headquarters which will continue encourage kids in years to come.