OLYMPIA, Wash. - Pete Carroll has a vision. He would like to change the vision for those youths growing up in neighborhoods where dying or going to jail seem to be the only alternatives.
The Seahawks’ coach took his message to the Washington state legislature on Wednesday, looking to generate additional financial support for A Better Seattle – which funds youth outreach activities in the greater Seattle area and is patterned after the A Better L.A. program he started while coaching at the University of Southern California.
“There’s a vision that we found in dealing with A Better L.A. that I know is here, too,” Carroll said. “Kids that are in these difficult situations feel like they’re either going to die or they’re going to go to jail. I used to listen to them tell me that time and time again.
“I would hear that and it finally hit me, that’s their vision and absolutely you’re right. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. It showed me how clear it was that we’re in the business of helping kids shape a new vision with hope.”
It’s that vision of refocusing those kids’ vision which led Carroll to hitting the end of the campaign trail. As he arrived at the Capitol, a 12th Man flag was being raised by 9-year-old Reid Larsen, who was wearing a
Then, it was on to the House Chamber, where Carroll was greeted by a standing ovation. That was followed by visits to the Democratic and Republican caucus rooms, with the Democrats presenting Carroll with a Seahawks flag signed by each representative and Carroll reciprocating by giving caucus leader Eric Pettigrew a 12th Man Flag.
From there, it was on to the office of Gov. Jay Inslee, which was followed by a visit to the Senate chamber and a final visit to the office of Sen. Rodney Tom.
At each stop, Carroll’s message and setup were the same. He began by talking about the success of the Seahawks’ 2012 season before transitioning seamlessly into his message of helping at-risk kids find success in their lives.
“I’m fired up about our football team, but we’re here for a different reason today,” Carroll said. “We’re hoping to continue to spread the message and save some lives and save some families.”
Carroll also retold the story of how A Better L.A. got started. He recalled the Monday he was driving to work at USC and heard on the radio that four youths had been shot and killed over the weekend in gang-related issues.
“On Tuesday, it was two more kids and then three more kids,” Carroll said. “But Thursday, it was 11 kids that had died in related issues.”
Carroll had always wanted to do something to help these kids where violence is part of their daily life. That proved to be the impetus.
“We didn’t know what to do, so we called a meeting – kind of like this,” he told the Democratic caucus. “We got the word out that we wanted to talk about what’s going on. We didn’t know what we were, who we were; we had no idea what we were going to get done.”
One meeting led to another. Getting more influential people onboard led to others getting involved.
“What happened was, we started a dialogue. We started a language that in time became a vocabulary for us,” Carroll said.
The talk turned to action, which prompted reactions.
“I asked the people that were involved at the time, ‘If you want to get involved, just do what you say you’re going to do. And if you’re not, just be quiet and let us do what we’re going to do and see what happens,” Carroll said.
What happened was A Better L.A., which has spurned A Better Seattle.
A Better Seattle already is receiving financial support from the Legislature, but with more it could do even more.
“We need support. We need more outreach workers,” Carroll said. “The outreach workers are really the most valuable players in this process. Law enforcement can only do so much. They can connect in certain ways.
“We need people from the communities that can speak directly to the kids, really one-on-one. The work that’s to be done here is really one-on-one. It’s really one person sitting down on a park bench with a kid and helping him create a vision of hope rather than one of despair.”
And that, again, is why Carroll visited the Legislators.
“We’re off and running and things are moving very well,” Carroll said. “We’re here today to try and just generate interest and understanding of what the effort is all about on this level. The state level is really important to us for funding.
“We have really kicked something into high gear and we’re hoping that we can make a lot of headway and make kids’ lives better and safer, communities a little bit safer, paths to schools safer and really give kids the chance to have the lives they deserve.”
When it came to Pettigrew, a representative from Seattle, Carroll was preaching to the choir. Pettigrew grew up in the South Central area of Los Angeles that is near the USC campus – 77th and McKinley.
“There are so many issues that come up in the legislature every single year,” Pettigrew said. “One year, it might be youth and gang intervention. The next year, it might not be. So having Pete here kind of keeps it at the forefront, it keeps the support and the resources that we’re trying to get.
“So it just makes my life so much easier knowing that there’s a possibility that I can get $250,000, if not more, into the budget specifically for youth intervention.”
But for those who might not see Carroll’s vision as clearly as Pettigrew, the passion in Carroll’s presentations was eye-opening.
“It was great to hear him talk about it up on the rostrum and address the body,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, who represents the 8th District. “It gave us pause to think about what’s really important in life. Sometimes we get a little caught up in what we’re doing here on the Senate floor. But what he was talking about is what’s truly important.”
While Carroll was providing the prodding words, and the recipient of the standing ovations, he repeatedly stressed that the real heroes when it comes to A Better Seattle are those involved in the outreach program who take his message to those at-risk kids through the YMCA’s Alive & Free program.
“I think Pete did a brilliant job, and I think leveraging his position and his passion all in one place was remarkable,” Alive & Free director Eleuthera Lisch said on the Capitol steps as Carroll was leaving. “It could not have been a better thing for the cause.”