September 19, 2016

According to Virginia Tech graduate and former NFL football player Aaron Rouse, growing up at Friendship Village Apartments in Virginia Beach, Va. shaped his attitudes about education and success, something he is now eager to pass along to the next generation.

Rouse’s passion for learning ultimately led him back to Friendship Village on Aug. 27, where he teamed up with the Virginia Beach police and fire departments, Congressman Scott Taylor, Mayor Will Sessoms, Beach Tires, and several other local businesses to give away 300 filled backpacks to young residents at the apartment complex.

“I love kids and I wanted to provide them with the tools to start off right and be successful,” explained Rouse. “I’ve been in these kids’ shoes and wanted them to see someone from their neighborhood who went to college and has a successful career.”

Rouse added that, “this was a great way to build community relationships and to expose the children to all types of business people and leaders. I wanted them to see that there are many careers out there, but they all have education as a foundation.”

Describing the backpack giveaway event, Rouse said that, “Saturday was a dream come true. It was awesome to see the smiles the kids had on their faces—they put on their backpacks and just grinned from ear to ear. The kids were giving off such great energy…it was contagious.”

Upon retiring from professional football in 2011, Rouse founded SMART2 (Sound, Minded, Approach, Requires, Thinking, Training), an organization that promotes education and training for a successful life. According to Rouse, the goal of SMART2 is to deliver a “constant, positive message about perceiving, planning, pursuing, and making progress toward your goals.”

Rouse said the secret to success is training your mind and being smart. “So many kids today want to be athletes and rappers, but you can’t do any of that without a solid education.”