If anyone knows a thing or two about making the most of opportunities, it’s Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.
Who could have anticipated that Alexander, who went undrafted after graduating from the University of California, would now be going into his 15th season in the NFL?
Unlikelier still: Alexander’s transition from defensive tackle to defensive end to starting linebacker, all coinciding with Oakland native’s physical transformation from a 300-plus pounder to a much leaner 36-year-old tackling and running machine.
And although he’s known as the “One Man Gang,” Alexander, who told the Buffalo News that he plans to retire after this season, doesn’t consider his success to be a one man show. He credits his trainers and coaches for creating opportunities for him to succeed.
Over the course of his career, Alexander has worked to open doors for others, especially the youth. That’s part of the motivation behind the ACES Foundation Second Annual Community Wellness and STEM Festival this Saturday at the Belle Center.
STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) fields are of particular importance to the jobs of today and tomorrow, Alexander said. He’s hoping area students will develop an interest in STEM fields through the event.
“I know that those type of (STEM) programs — especially inner city, low income kids aren’t exposed to that as frequent or as consistent as maybe some other communities,” he said. “So, in college, your resume and your experiences may not be as well-rounded as some other kids. So I thought it would be just a great idea.”
Saturday’s event is a continuation of a relationship between Alexander and the Belle Center that started two years ago, according to Lucy Candelario, Executive Director with the Belle Center said.
“Back in October of 2017, Lorenzo Alexander contacted The Belle Center to do a community project. Since then, Lorenzo has continued his efforts in helping our community through events hosted at The Belle Center while being a role model to children and youth,” Candelario said.
STEM workshops for students in grades 6-12 will be offered at the event, including sessions focused on sports video analytics and robotics.
“It’s just a good way to get kids exposed to it for that day, and then maybe get their feet wet, their minds intrigued and hopefully out of that, whether you want to come back to the Bell Center and do the program provided year round or (take their interest in STEM) to whatever community center they may go to, or school, and maybe say, ‘Hey, the STEM concept is pretty cool, maybe let me dive into it a little bit more,'” Alexander said.
Other STEM activities will be available to kids of all ages, as well as a number of health screenings opportunities. These include a general physical test and screenings for ovarian cancer and diabetes that adults can participate in as well.
“You always think about the kids, but if the family is not healthy, the kid is going to suffer, too, so we provide that as well for them,” Alexander said.
There will also be free haircuts, voter registration through RISE, various community and health care vendors, and a panel hosted by local professionals working in STEM-related fields.
You can count on a number of Buffalo Bills players being there as well. Last summer, players like Josh Allen, Jerry Hughes and Harrison Phillips all took part in the event.
For the Belle Center, Alexander has been a reliable and highly-engaged spokesman for the organization’s mission as a one-stop shop for key community services.
“(Alexander) exemplifies the characteristics of a strong leader who is also authentic and genuine in his approach. He is a role model to many while leading by example.” Candelario said. “If Lorenzo says he is going to make it happen, he will make it happen. And that is what we absolutely love about him. He is determined to give back to under privileged communities.”
Services offered by the Belle Center include daycare, seniors program, workforce development, youth STEM workshops, summer camp, translation services, ESL classes, after-school programs, evening programs, a food pantry and much more.
The ACES Foundation Second Annual Community Wellness and STEM Festival takes place Aug. 10 at the Belle Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Belle Center is located at 104 Maryland Street.