Kirtland senior Philip LaVerde collected plenty of hardware for his performance on the gridiron, but on Monday, he was rewarded for his citizenship and effort off the field.
LaVerde was the recipient of a $2,000 scholarship from the Build a Bridge foundation.
“It’s very cool,” LaVerde said. “It shows all the stuff I learned through Build a Bridge, which is a great program. It’s nice to be a representative of it and spread the word about it because what we learned through it over the four years was great.”
Build a Bridge was created by Cleveland Heights assistant coach Kahari Hicks following the nationwide protests over racial injustice that occurred from coast to coast.
The initiative was designed to build off the brotherhood football players develop in the trenches.
Hicks hoped that brotherhood would help eliminate racism by rallying around the things that bring us together—such as football—and to unify our communities.
Through multiple events, teams from predominantly white schools were paired up with teams from schools with large African American populations.
Whether they practiced together or competed in 7-on-7 games, or even participated in off-the-field training sessions, players from both schools gained a better understanding of their peers.
“Football brings people together,” LaVerde said. “Kirtland is really a bubble, so we never really get that interaction with people. Through football, we’re able to meet kids we would never meet and learn more about them. You learn there are a lot of kids that are hardworking and nice, so that was a very cool experience.”
After being nominated for the scholarship, LaVerde submitted a required essay.
He chose to write about his own experience being raised in a small, rural—and mostly white—community and how Build a Bridge changed his own outlook.
“I talked about just coming from a small town that’s predominantly white and how we don’t really get experiences like we got through Build a Bridge and meeting new people,” he said. “I talked about that a little bit.”
The scholarship award came at just the right time.
LaVerde visited Ohio State over the weekend and decided he was ready to become a Buckeye.
He plans to major in engineering.
While his football career may be over, LaVerde will never forget his time as a Hornet and what he learned from the game, and especially his participation in Build a Bridge.
“Have fun with the experiences you get,” he said. “Be kind to others and do what you can, and it will work out.”