By Teresa Varley
Steelers.com* PHOTO ALBUM*
Head coach Mike Tomlin, quarterback Charlie Batch and offensive tackle Max Starks joined Art Rooney, II at the 9TH Grade Nation Kick Off Event at Heinz Field.
The program brought Pittsburgh Public Schools incoming 9th grade students together to mark the creation of their own nation. The 9th Grade Nation symbolizes how all members of the Class of 2012 are beginning an exciting and important phase of life – High School.
Students of the 9th Grade Nation, Class of 2012, will work hard to achieve academic excellence, meet high expectations and will "make new history" connecting themselves to the history and greatness within the City of Pittsburgh.
And they will be rewarded for the hard work as a part of the Pittsburgh Promise, which offers college scholarships to city school students who maintain a certain grade point average. The program was set up from a pledge from UPMC and for this year's group of freshman who meet the grade criteria would receive $10,000 a year toward their education.
"It was awesome to talk to the youth about the opportunity they have in front of them," said Starks. "In years past none of us had this opportunity. They are the first ones. I wanted to convey to them to take advantage of this because they have an opportunity to make their dreams come true."
Tomlin encouraged the students to work hard and take advantage of opportunities and told them to never let obstacles get in their way.
"We are committed to helping you bring out your best. Are you?" Tomlin asked the group. "We all know what we should do. We all dream great dreams. But what are you going to do?
"I love you guys. I'm rooting for you. Hopefully, you're rooting for us. We have dreams, too. We want to hoist the Lombardi."
Also on hand to address the students were Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Public School Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.