DENVER — Two teenagers in Montbello weren't waiting for the world to change around them, or for permission to change it. Najaray West and NaShara Ellerbee organized a March for Peace on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver. They just so happened to ask their friend Justin Simmons for help.
"As part of the youth, they just felt motivated to want to make a difference to have their voices heard and I just felt so honored that they asked me even to be a part of this," the Denver Broncos safety said.
West and Ellerbee, both only 15, boldly stood next to Simmons as they took questions about their event.
"Our overall goal was to be heard," West said. "It starts within our own bedrooms because everything is so talked down about in our community, so if we can be heard, we want to be heard."
The two teenagers met Simmons through the "Rise" initiative of the Boys and Girls Club, a national nonprofit designed to educate and empower the sports community in issues of racial inequities.
"Having support from somebody like that who has a personal connection to you is amazing because teens our age, we don't really have that many opportunities," Ellerbee said. "Being at the Boys and Girls club and having that outlet to have different relationships with everybody is amazing."
Simmons has been nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award twice in his Broncos career for his work in the Denver community.
"I don't know what you guys were doing at 15, but I definitely wasn't leading Peace Marches in my neighborhood and thinking about what I can do for the betterment of my community," he said. "[West and Ellerbee] inspire me to want to be better."
The event featured a 5K run and walk, a memorial garden remembering loved ones lost to violence, free meals, free shoes, and a fitness carnival.
"We're the youth, we're the next generation, so we need to be speaking out and it starts here," West said. "It starts within our community, it starts in our own homes. This isn't the last you're going to hear from us. Our names will be known, definitely."
Other Broncos and executives in attendance included KJ Hamler, Jerry Jeudy, Diontae Spencer, Tyrie Cleveland, Alexander Johnson and Tim Patrick, as well as General Manager George Paton, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion China Jude and Chief Communications Officer Patrick Smyth.
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