INDIANAPOLIS – Former Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson may have hung up his helmet, but he’s still making a big impact in Indianapolis.
Jackson’s foundation, Fight For Life, launched a software program used in schools to help cultivate social and emotional development.
The program, Building Dreams, was inspired by Jackson’s childhood experiences and his road to success in the NFL.
Now this computer program is helping kids tackle social and emotional stressors and finding ways to navigate to a successful future.
Students at Phalen Leadership Academy in Indianapolis can now score touchdowns for good behavior and throw flags on their peers who are misbehaving or being disruptive through Building Dreams.
“So when they do their check-ins or throw flags that notification is sent to the teachers and also myself so if it is necessary for myself or them to check in with that student we are able to do that,” said Kayla Wood, city connect site coordinator at Phalen Leadership Academy 93.
When students start the day, they check in with how they are feeling: happy, excited, sad. They can also explain why they are feeling that way so the teacher is aware of the headspace that kids are in starting the day and the reasons behind it. Teachers say sometimes students have an easier time communicating their emotions through writing than if they had to say them out loud.
“When you face adversities young it makes it very difficult to navigate and be able to find your way. And what we do is provide and infrastructure to school systems to be able to make the connections to help kids see all that they posses inside,” said Jackson, the former Colts defensive back whose interception of Tom Brady propelled the Colts to Super Bowl XLI.
In true football fashion students can gain yards, score touchdowns and earn points for good behavior.
“I love it how you get extra points like you can give people extra points but then the teacher says not too much because then you’re just getting free points,” said sixth-grader Constantine Kaminski.
Students can also lose yards or get flags thrown on them if someone notices inappropriate, unkind or unsafe behavior. Students can report it anonymously and teachers can leave explanations with why the flag was thrown.
“I flagged someone for being disruptive in class because they were talking when the teacher was talking,” said Kaminski.
The program has helped classrooms show students how their choices can impact their progress in and outside of the game.
“If we teach these things sooner we will have adults that are capable and empowered to make better decisions and manage their emotions, manage their stressors that come with their relationships,” said Jackson.
The Building Dreams program has even more features that the school says they hope to start implementing based on the progress they have seen already in the last year of using it.
The program is currently in at least nine schools here in Indianapolis.