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Pembroke school holds Lorenzo Alexander Day to honor Bills LB's mentorship

Lorenzo Alexander himself didn’t have Lorenzo Alexander Day marked on the calendar.

It took the Buffalo Bills linebacker a moment to connect the date, May 7, with his jersey No. 57 when Arron Brown presented him with a plaque last week commemorating the coming Monday’s celebration at Pembroke Intermediate School.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had that sort of recognition,” Alexander said Tuesday.

Brown, a fourth-grade English teacher at the school, organized the event, which included a proclamation signed by Superintendent Matthew Calderon and Principal Norman Foster, a morning video announcement and hallway showcase, sale of T-shirts with Alexander’s name and the date printed over the school’s Dragons logo, and a donation drive to benefit Alexander’s ACES Foundation.

 

 

Alexander was unable to attend the celebration in his honor due to offseason conditioning workouts in the morning and NFLPA meetings in the afternoon. But he sent a video message of appreciation for Brown to share during independent reading time and congratulated them on passing the 200 million milestone for combined words read during this school year.

“For the kids to hear a Buffalo Bills player is taking time out of his day to acknowledge their accomplishments has such a tremendous impact on them,” Brown said. “Lorenzo’s outgoingness and his commitment to education, as a teacher, it really is awesome to see someone involved at the magnitude he has been.”

 

Alexander began forming a relationship with Brown’s students last May after connecting with the 35-year-old teacher through social media. Brown could not attend an impromptu meet and greet at a Spot Coffee near his Cheektowaga home that Alexander had promoted on Twitter, so he extended an invitation to visit his classroom.

“It started with just hoping he would like my tweet,” Brown said. “I took my shot and thought the coolest thing in the world would be if he just sent back a message.”

Instead, Alexander accepted the invitation and made the 45-minute drive from the Bills’ practice facility to Pembroke Intermediate. He spoke to the students about his background growing up in Oakland and the importance of reading.

“Hopefully, the time I’ve invested inspired them to read more and build great habits, because reading is key,” Alexander said. “It helps with comprehension, understanding and learning. And in today’s world, with quick soundbites and quick tweets, young kids can really find out what their truth is by reading, instead of relying on what you hear.”

Alexander remained involved with Brown’s classes throughout the year, sponsoring monthly reading contests and returning in January for a pizza party. He signed autographs during each visit and also donated signed items, including a pair of pink cleats for Pembroke High School’s annual Shooting for a Cure game to benefit Roswell Park.

When the Bills hosted the Patriots in December, Alexander arranged for 15 students and five teachers to attend the game. Alexander also gave Brown two tickets for the NFL Draft party inside the Bills' field house.

“As a Bills fan, it’s the coolest experience,” said Brown, who grew up in Vestal, N.Y., rooting for the 49ers but changed his allegiance while studying at SUNY Buffalo State. “First of all, my students think he and I are best friends. Getting to know Lorenzo as an individual and seeing how normal and regular he is, has been awesome. You hear all the stories about athletes being self-centered, and he’s the complete opposite.”

While flattered by the Lorenzo Alexander Day recognition, the Bills' Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee said he was more proud of being able to make a meaningful connection with the students at Pembroke Intermediate.

“They are doing the work and I’m just doing my part to help them along the way,” Alexander said. “It’s really cool the impact you can have, that the time I’ve invested inspired them to read more. Going out there to help a teacher with his class and share my story, hopefully I can change some young ladies and young men’s perspective of what life looks like for a professional athlete.”

Mentorship of South Park football team adds to Lorenzo Alexander's Man of the Year credentials

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Brown also organized a Preston Brown Day in his classroom on May 2 to recognize the former Bills linebacker who had sponsored reading contests over the past two seasons.

“Preston went out of his way to support the students. He reached out to me first on Twitter and asked if he could come in one day, back in October of ’16,” Arron Brown said. “Even after moving on to Cincinnati, Preston has stayed in touch to check on the kids and said he wants to stay involved. If he comes to town, he’s always welcome to visit.”

 

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