DENVER – Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Danny Trevathan were on hand to celebrate the success of 250 high-risk youth at the 2015 YESS Institute Youth Mentor Program at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Wednesday night.
An active leader in the community, Harris not only greeted fans and signed autographs, but also took his turn behind the podium to open the celebration as the keynote speaker.
"It's a great opportunity to just share my story with these kids and explain how I was brought up and the adversity I had to overcome to where I am now," said Harris. "I think it's a great opportunity to speak at this event and be able to give them some uplift and hopefully some tips to help them in life."
Harris, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, spoke to the students and parents about being an underdog coming out of the University of Kansas and how he achieved his dreams of making it to the National Football League. But most importantly, Harris spoke about the importance of getting his degree and how it positively impacted his life after college.
This year commemorates the 11th year YESS Institute has provided peer-mentoring programs in Denver. The event is produced by YESS Institute mentees and peer mentors from Denver Public Schools' North, West and Lincoln High Schools for their parents and the community.
Chris Harris Jr. and Danny Trevathan met and spoke with students involved with the YESS Institute on Wednesday.
"To be able to be a person that they can relate to and kind of share my life story with them is huge," said Harris. "Growing up, I didn't have a lot of role models, so I always wanted to share my life with other people and explain the adversity that I had to go through and persevered through. I'm grateful to be able to come up here and speak, and I'm thankful the Broncos asked me to do this and I'm glad I'm able to do it."
Bronco linebacker Danny Trevathan made a surprise appearance at the YESS Institute event. Trevathan, who brought his daughter, Danoir, assisted with announcing raffle winners from kids enrolled in the program.
"It's good for them to know that people see what they're doing," said Trevathan. "That's a big accomplishment for them, for anybody to be the first in their family to do anything. I'm a guy who was in a similar situation and was the first to do a lot in my family, but it's all about having a good perspective about yourself and feeling confident where you're going in life."
Using the "Road to Success" curriculum, YESS provides a student-centered, pro-social peer influences supportive environment. For many youth, YESS is often offered as a "last resort" program to students at risk for dropping out or being expelled.
Carolo Kriekels, co-founder and executive director of the YESS Institute spoke highly of Harris and Trevathan and the impact the Denver Broncos organization has on the institute and the kids involved.
"We are so grateful for this partnership with the Denver Broncos and to have these tremendous athletes to come here and talk about their obstacles that they have overcome and their road to success," said Kriekels. "It's really what we're teaching the kids. It doesn't matter how many obstacles you have, you have a certain road to success in your life and it's unique for you. These Broncos symbolize that you can be successful."