There are no days off in New England.
The cliché may be thrown around often, but it's a valuable message that Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills shared with students at Young Woods Elementary School on the one day of the week he's free from football.
Mills, accompanied by Pat Patriot, two cheerleaders, and the Patriots Foundation as the latest activation of the Rally Series, went down to Providence on Tuesday to welcome students back to school with a pep rally and give them an incentive to show up and give their best every day.
"It's very important," Mills said of taking the time to inspire kids at the start of a new school year.
"For one, knowing the influence that we have on these young kids, and the influence that I have being an NFL player. I've been in their shoes before, trying to get to school and trying to learn, but there can be conflicts and difficulties with that. So, I just to have an influence as an organization and taking an opportunity to come over here and talk to the kids goes a long way."
School principal Jackson Reilly knows what a visit like this can mean.
The Swansea, Mass. native went down to Rhode Island to start his teaching career in Providence – a community where he felt his support and dedication would go a long way. But the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns brought challenges to inner city schools that Reilly never could have anticipated.
Now, keeping kids in school is as big a challenge as getting them there to begin with.
"I started teaching in Providence," Reilly said. "I spent my whole career here. I was a teacher at the high school level, an assistant principal at the middle school level, and then I got moved here in January. Since then, we've more than tripled our proficiency in English, doubled our proficiency in math, and we're really starting to transform the school. So now our big focus, especially after the pandemic, is on attendance. We're so happy to partner with the Patriots to really get our kiddos excited on a quarterly basis, to have you all come in and celebrate our kids being in school every single day."
In a partnership with the school, students at Young Wood Elementary will be rewarded for good attendance by the Patriots Foundation with events like Tuesday's pep rally, where kids prepared questions with Mills and the Patriots Cheerleaders in a special assembly and had the opportunity to get autographs and photos.
Each classroom received a gift, and the Patriots Foundation surprised three teachers by purchasing all the items on their classroom wishlist.
"They look up to these players so much," Reilly said of his students. "When these folks come in and hear how important to be here every day and try your best, they're going to come in every single day and try their best because they want to meet them again and they want to rise to that occasion. We have the best kids in Providence."
Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills, joined by Pat Patriot and the Patriots cheerleaders, took part in a pep rally at Young Woods Elementary School in Providence, R.I. on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. They spoke about their experiences in school, the importance of education, and answered questions by students.