One sunny Saturday in October, I was sitting in the stands at McClymonds High School, watching some boys in cardinal red and gold uniforms tackle another team. I was rooting for the Bay Area Seminoles, a new youth football team, which was in their second year. The youth cheerleaders were doing their thang too! The stands were full of parents and supporters. I didn’t remember the last time that I saw so many people show up for a youth football league.
It was like a kid version of The Oakland Raiders’ Black Hole. I saw one of the owners and coaches, Lamont Robinson, Jr., walk by and said, “Man, you got a great football league!” He said, “Naw, I got a great organization!”
Bay Area Seminoles is a part of We Lead Ours Organization (WELO, pronounced We-low). It was officially founded in 2010 by three men from Oakland, Dwayne A. Aikens, Jr., Lamont D. Robinson, Jr., and Trestin D. George, who wanted to lead by example and provide for the different needs in the community.
In 2006, they came together to create a program where they could help the children in Oakland. As Lamont said, “The three of us used our brains to make this. We were grassroots in it, and that foundation was the model for our other programs.
They started off with $500 in donations, and they have never been funded by the federal, state and county. They get their contributions from community grants, individual contributions, and corporate sponsors. They are contracted by the Oakland Unified School District, servicing nearly 45 school sites in the area of substance abuse harm reduction. WELO also provides after-school programming at a variety of schools in Alameda County.
Lamont reflected, “When you see the other parts of the organization and what we do, you see our footprint. That looks like Dwayne. Or that looks like Lamont or Trestin. WELO is the fuel to the engine.” They lead theirs by being more than owners; they are engaged, and they are out there in the fields with the students.
They are the big brothers in the community. They provide after-school programs, summer camps, football and cheer programs, and community service/internships. The students receive life skill service learning, community engagement, college prep, and health and wellness. Their goals are to show the community that there are more career aspirations other than being a rapper, athlete, and to explore different things in and out of the community.
WELO hosts a mentor/career workshop once a month. They bring in professionals to show the youth other career paths. They try to match the students with someone in that profession so they can get the real guidance that they need. They prepare them for the life of being a business owner/entrepreneur. “[The kids say], ‘I want to see what the owner life looks like. [Or] I want to be an entrepreneur.’ With folks like me, Dwayne and Trestin, to come into our community, coming from poor backgrounds, they can see that it’s attainable,” Lamont expressed.
At Oakland Unified School District, they work with troubled students who are dealing with life. Many of the students are on probation or have anger issues. WELO team members modify the students’ behaviors by motivating them to change their actions and showing them the steps to achieve a goal/dream. Dwayne took that part of the organization to the next level, and they are proud of their after-school programs.
As part of community service through their summer camp and year-round programs, they do backpack giveaways, turkey and toy drives, work with Oakland Parks and Recreation to do cleanups at the parks, Save the Bay, and Creek and Bay Day. Dwayne and Lamont echoed, “We make the kids understand to take care of your home, own community, yourself, and give back.” Also, they provide internships and community service to students who need experience, whether it is by working at the snack bar stand or collecting admission fees to the game, helping out at the summer camp, and mentoring to the younger students.
For the Bay Area Seminoles, there are the tricks and the treats. The methods they use are the football and cheer programs to capture the kids, between the ages of 5-14. They check the students’ grades to make sure they are eligible to play, and if the students are slipping, they provide tutoring and academic services to get the grades back up.
The treats are parent engagements, family/community support, mentorships, academic support. For the 2018-2019 school year, they will host their first annual ceremony to celebrate the students’ academic accomplishments.
They have been recognized by Oakland Mayors, Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors, Keep Oakland Beautiful (Dwayne is on the Board), and Waste Management. They are thankful for the support from their partners and other organizations, such as Marshawn Lynch, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcus Peters, Mistah F.A.B., Oakland Fire Department, Oakland Unified School District, and many others.
They have come a long way from where they started, and they plan to leave to something in the future. Dwayne said, “There is not enough support in the community, and we aren’t in competition with other organizations. We want to collaborate with others who are liked minded. Our passion is what keeps this going.” And Lamont added,” We love our community. If we’re succeeding, it’s because the community was behind it and saw what we were doing.” Their long-term goal is to expand and work in other cities to give other students in those communities a place to gain exposure and work. And I stand corrected, they are a great organization.
To find out more or support We Lead Ours, you can contact them at https://www.weleadours.org.