Coach, trustee bridging gap
YOUNGSTOWN — Before they began their practice Tuesday, Chaney High School football players took a knee to hear a speaker from the suburbs.
Working to “bridge the gap” between urban and suburban cultures, Poland Township Trustee Eric Ungaro briefly talked with the youths, telling them a little history about himself, which is rich in Youngstown city culture.
“Bottom line is, we see character, we see people. We ain’t here to see color,” Ungaro told the students of The Red Zone, an organization in which he is a board member, along with football coach Chris Amill.
The RedZone is a mental health agency established by former Ohio State University football standout and Warren G. Harding High School graduate Maurice Clarett, providing opportunities for youth, adults and families.
Ungaro explained the agency is within inner city schools such as Youngstown, but also surrounding districts, providing mental health services.
“Ninety percent of the world cares about people,” Ungaro told the crowd, which ranged in age from first grade up through high school.
Football practice is open to junior-high and high school students, but some have younger siblings so they join in on the conditioning.
Telling the students that there are instances of a bad situation shown on media, it doesn’t represent a race or culture.
“That’s not the vast majority of people,” he said.
Ungaro encouraged the students to work hard and continue working under the guidance of their coaches, telling them they have “the world at your finger tips.”
To give the students a different perspective on law enforcement, Amill invited the Youngstown Police Department last week to show they are more than what could be perceived in the media.
“If somebody pulls up and sees us at practice and one guy is having a meltdown, is it fair for him to think the entire football team is like that? We’re kind of building that bridge,” Amill explained.
The head football coach said the students are “very receptive” to the speakers.
In addition to speakers visiting the football program, Amill also has “a mental check-in” where the players, usually around 95 kids, splits into groups and talks with adults to discuss things for a few minutes.
Amill said that conversations lately have been focused more on what is seen on the news with law enforcement.
For Ungaro, the talk was brief and to the point, but he also shared a little about his past, including his father, former Youngstown mayor Pat Ungaro and former Rayen coach, to his own background in the coaching world in Youngstown to transitioning into becoming a trustee nine years ago in Poland Township.
Although Ungaro has experience coaching and working in Youngstown, talking about current events is still “a sensitive topic.”
“Not every white person in the suburb is out to get you. And the vast majority of Americans are good people,” Ungaro said.
“The bottom line is, they are seeing people in a different light,” Ungaro said after his talk. “These kids need to see that. All of society needs to see that.”