The Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Department of Career Education and Crowley’s Ridge Educational Service Cooperative hosted “Graduating to the Workplace” last week, a career fair and luncheon for high school seniors celebrating advancements in career education.

Designed for the recognition of students who have become completers in a Career Education Program of Study for the 2011-2012 school year, over 800 students from 25 schools in Craighead, Crittenden, Cross, Jackson, Lawrence, Mississippi and Poinsett Counties participated in the day of celebration.

Students learn about various career options in industries such as television

Businesses, industries, military recruiters and post-secondary schools were on hand with displays and information highlighting their products, services and entry level qualifications along with employee expectations. The event began at 9:30 a.m. with students rotating through the vendor booths discussing jobs, internships and educational opportunities. A formal luncheon followed with special guest speakers recognizing the students’ achievements in completing a program of study in Career Education.

Matt Birk & Paul listen intently to feedback from career education students

Baltimore Ravens Center Matt Birk,
2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year

Headlining the luncheon speakers was Baltimore Ravens Center Matt Birk, a six-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro. Named the sixth smartest athlete by Sporting News, the Harvard graduate advocates providing at-risk children with the educational opportunities needed to excel in the classroom and in life through his HIKE Foundation (Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge, Education). Birk was recently honored as the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, an award unique among NFL honors because it is the only one that recognizes a current NFL player for outstanding community service activities as well as excellence on the field.

CRESC’s Kathi Turner, Matt Birk & Paul

“You won’t meet a successful person who doesn’t work hard,” Birk stated as he shared his observations on achieving success. He stressed the importance of influence through the people who surround you and the books you read, as well as the significance of embracing failure as a means to reaching your goals. “All of you students here are doers—people of action. Don’t be afraid to bite off more than you can chew. Surprise yourself!”


About Matt Birk

Birk, in his 15th NFL season, is the anchor of the Ravens offensive line and an undisputed leader on and off the field. The perennial Pro Bowl center has started 96 consecutive games, the NFLs second-longest active streak among centers. In 2011, Birk helped pave the way for Ravens running back Ray Rice to score a franchise-record 15 total touchdowns and rush for a career-high 1,364 yards, also leading the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage. A family man and father of six with a passion for emphasizing the importance of education, Birk has focused a great deal of his energy on promoting literacy among the youth around him. The Harvard graduates “Ready, Set, Read!” program, an initiative of his HIKE Foundation, reaches close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area and motivates students to read at home through an incentive-based system.

Birks work carries well past the many initiatives and successes of his own foundation. He is committed to bettering himself, his team, his community and the world. Birk has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine to help assist in researching the effects of repeated head traumas. Birk is an eight-time Man of the Year (six with the Vikings, twice with the Ravens) and was a finalist for the national award in 2008.

Considered the highest honor a professional football player can receive, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only league award that recognizes a players off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence. Congratulations to Matt for being selected the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year!

Paul presents Matt with an originally designed commemorative football card during “Graduating to the Workplace” at the ASU Convocation Center

After Matt’s remarks were completed, Paul took the podium for a special presentation. In gratitude for Matt’s philanthropic efforts to further education and his continued support of Paul’s message through the A Hero Within program, Paul and his team at Vital Communications, Inc. created a football card commemorating the event. “We wanted to offer our congratulations to the students in a unique way, while at the same time recognizing Matt’s successes on and off the field,” Paul said.

“To have Matt take time from his incredibly busy schedule and travel to Arkansas to speak to students attending the ‘Graduating to the Workplace’ career fair and luncheon was truly exceptional,” Paul continued. “Not only did attendees have the privilege of listening to a Harvard graduate and veteran of the National Football League, they also gained valuable wisdom from an all-around good man. I consider it an honor to call Matt a close friend and I hope that he has the opportunity to travel back to the Natural State soon.”

“Graduating to the Workplace”
Commemorative Card


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