SEATTLE, July 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The voices of 605 students pledging to work hard, believe in themselves and graduate from high school filled Alaska Airlines' hangar today and briefly masked the sound of airplanes taking off outside at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The event, dubbed "Pledge It. Prove It. Take Flight.,"was co-hosted by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Alaska Airlines' Black Employee Resource Group (BERG).
The event attracted students from 21 high schools and educational programs from across Washington and was designed to encourage urban youths to finish school and accomplish their goals.
In his keynote speech, Wilson urged the students to excel in high school and pursue post-secondary education, promising them that hard work, focus and a commitment to graduating high school can lead to a bright future.
"You can do and be anything you want if you set a goal, map out a plan and commit to achieve it," Wilson said. "You just need to do the work."Wilson's own academic career was an inspiration for the students, who were identified as urban, first-generation college-bound youths. After attending high school in Richmond, Va., Wilson graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010 after only three years with a bachelor's degree in communications. He went on to attend the University of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2012, where he led the university to the Rose Bowl in 2012. He later earned the position of starting quarterback for the Seahawks in his rookie season. There he led the team to the 2013 playoffs, where he ultimately tied the NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie. "Alaska Airlines has a strong commitment to supporting youths and education," Alaska Airlines President and CEO Brad Tilden said. "The opportunity to partner with Russell to share his inspiring story with youths in our community is a perfect way for us to further connect with young people in our hometown." Tilden said he admires Russell for his determination and talent on the field, and for his humility and modesty off the field. "These are great values for any person or organization — he is an incredible role model for us all," Tilden said.