Orlando Magic Among Sports Teams to Support Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis’ Resiliency Initiative to Empower Florida Students

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - The impact professional sports teams, such as the Orlando Magic, and the athletes that play for those organizations make when they step out into their local communities and donate their time and resources is incredibly significant.

The Magic, specifically, go above and beyond at every turn to ensure that the youth of Central Florida have the tools and assets they need to succeed, both in and out of the classroom.

With that being such a major focus of the organization, it gives them tremendous delight to team up with other agencies who are just as passionate as they are about inspiring children. That said, it was announced Friday, Feb. 26 that the Magic are one of several Florida-based organizations teaming up with Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis on a new education curriculum designed to empower and encourage kids in the state.

Essentially an all-in-one academic and mental health toolset that will be available to all school districts, the “Resiliency Florida” syllabus will teach students about perseverance, fortitude, volunteerism, problem solving, critical thinking, responsibility and respect. Incentivizing physical activity will be another integral part of the curriculum.

“Our goal is to rethink and reframe the way we talk about mental wellbeing in schools by promoting topics such as critical thinking, problem solving, responsibility, volunteerism, mentorship, and physical activity,” said Gov. DeSantis, who was joined by the first lady; legendary former football player, coach, and analyst Lou Holtz; Commissioner of the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Richard Corcoran; Magic CEO Alex Martins; and Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon at Friday’s press conference at Amway Center to unveil the program. “By partnering with Florida sports teams and athletes, students will become more engaged and excited to learn about resiliency. Resilient athletes and Floridians overcome setbacks and serve as role models highlighting why these critical skills are important.”

The Magic are among the pro sports teams participating in the program. The NFL’s Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Bucs, MLB’s Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, the NHL’s Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning and MLS’ Orlando City and Inter Miami CF are several of the others joining the effort.

“We believe that this is an extremely powerful message that these organizations are uniting in an unprecedented fashion for the singular mission of supporting Florida’s children by empowering them to be resilient, to persevere and to have hope,” First Lady DeSantis said.

The lesson plans, which will be free to all the state’s school districts, will be a supplement to what’s already implemented in schools, including the five hours of mental health instruction for middle and high school students.

Connecting the sports teams’ athletes to the students will be another major feature of the program. One way the first lady hopes to do that is by utilizing social media platforms to have those role models convey critical messages and share inspiring stories with the kids.

Enthusiastic about linking the team’s players to students through this new and exciting program, the Magic have seen firsthand the difference it makes when children get to interact with their favorite sports stars. Not only does it make them smile, it motivates youth to pursue their dreams and be confident in their abilities.

“Our mission statement at the Orlando Magic is to be world champions on and off the court delivering legendary moments every step of the way. Part of delivering those legendary moments and part of being world champions off the court is our commitment to our community,” Martins said. “At the heart of our commitment to our community is our focus on supporting at-risk youth here in Central Florida. We’re proud to be a part of this critical initiative with the governor and the first lady and to use our platform to help reframe the way that we talk about mental wellbeing and combine it with a focus on resiliency for our state’s students.”

Recently named the CEO of Volunteer Florida, which strengthens Florida’s communities through national service, fostering volunteerism and leveraging resources, Simon talked about some of the life-lessons he learned from his coaches and mentors during his football career that included winning a national collegiate title at Florida State and making a Pro Bowl appearance while playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.

“Coach (Bobby) Bowden used to have this sign over the top of his tower that sat over all of our fields and it said, ‘perseverance,’” he recalled. “It was the pushing through. It was the fight. It’s easy to walk out of practice and be fresh and have a great day when it’s 70 degrees and sunny and the wind’s blowing. It’s those days when it’s 95 degrees and 99 percent humidity. Those are the days where you have to suck it up and finish. Those are the same things that I carry to this day into my job at Volunteer Florida. A coach once told me, he says, ‘Corey, you can be one of two things. You can be a thermostat or a thermometer. You can set the tone and the temperature of the rooms that you walk in or you can succumb to the pressures that that environment brings.’ So I look at that and I look at where our kids are today and I say no, we have to have more thermostats out there. We’ve got to present avenues and organizations that are willing to step forward and hold our kids accountable and help them through these tough times.”

The governor and first lady’s program is supported by resiliency lessons and resources found on www.cpalms.org, Florida’s official source for high-quality instructional information and course descriptions.

Many coaches and players from different sports have endorsed the curriculum, including the Magic’s Jonathan Isaac, Inter Miami CF President and Co-Owner David Beckham, retired NFL superstar Peyton Manning and Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer, who led the Florida Gators to two national titles and the Ohio State Buckeyes to one during his college football head coaching career.

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