PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. - Five teens are headed to a college prep school to prepare for a four-year university after the six-month program if they choose.
It was the mission of their now head coach who took over September of last year after coaching at Pleasantville for six years.
"We're all going to Georgia Knights Prep Academy," announced the football players during signing day at Pleasantville High for five Greyhound football players.
"I'm excited. It's been my dream to play at the next level," said Zahir Washington. He and some of his teammates are headed to Georgia knights Prep Academy in Snellville Georgia this coming June.
"I’m looking to get a nice degree and just be able to say I went to college. As an African American to be able to say I made it from poverty," said Zahir whose proud mom siblings and grand-parents were there. He'll be the first grand-child in his family to go to college.
"It was kind of something big to live up to but I think I did a good job," he said. The opportunity is due to the compassion and hard work of their Head Coach Javier Garcia.
"They didn't have no hope of going to the next level. My job was to make sure that they got there." Garcia reached out on social media to different college coaches. He says for his students an athletic scholarship is the fast track to an academic scholarship.
He says three of the students initially said they weren't going to college or didn't know if they'd have the opportunity.
"My job as the head coach when I hear that is I have to get them into school," he said. "A lot of their struggles is not having a male role model in their life so being a head coach or a coach in the community you're looked up to," said Garcia. His investment goes beyond the field and regular season.
"You got to at least save one of them and they are my ones that I saved," he said.
Cell phone video shows "Coach Jav" as the students call him led them in clearing the football field of snow and cleaning roads in their neighborhood along with Coach Jav's Omega Psi Phi Fraternity brothers.
"We take pride in what we're doing here and take pride in having ownership and responsibilities of this is our home," said the coach. Zahir can't stop smiling about his new beginning.
"Try to put on for the city. Try to put on for my family," he said. Zahir hopes to study criminal justice or fire science. Tuition is mostly covered by scholarships.
Coach Garcia says he’s the first Latino Head Coach in the team’s history and the first to have a winning season his first year.
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