Arlington YET Program Director Receives NFL Changemaker Award

By: Kristin Mudge

The National Football League (NFL) recently started a social justice initiative called “Inspire Change.” According to the NFL this initiative is “aimed at reducing barriers to opportunity, particularly in communities of color, and showcasing how the NFL family is working together to create positive change.”

The NFL says their social justice work aims to invest in organizations, programs, and initiatives in four focus areas: education, economic advancement, community-police relations, and criminal justice reform. Every year since the creation of the initiative, each team in the NFL is encouraged to select one individual in their market area making a difference in their community to receive the Inspire Change Changemaker Award.

For 2023, the Dallas Cowboys selected Tyler Chambless, program director for The Salvation Army’s Gene and Jerry Jones Family North Texas Youth Education Town (YET) at the Arlington Corps, to recognize and honor his work through this incredible award.

The YET is a legacy project from Gene and Jerry Jones stemming from Super Bowl XLV. “We serve youth in our community that are elementary age, from kindergarten through sixth grade primarily,” Tyler explains. “We also have some teen and preteen outreach programs.” They provide all sorts of programs from after school, summer day camp, music and arts, and more. “All that, just providing a positive place for youth where they can dream, they can aspire, and be able to grow their skills.”

A huge barrier for lower-income families in the Arlington area is affordable childcare programming. This was a big part of why the YET opened its doors in 2014. “We serve a lower income demographic, including in partnership here with our Family Life Center, so including those that are currently experiencing homelessness,” Tyler explains. “Whether it’s equipment, whether it’s the necessary course materials they need, we’ll make sure that they have that. The big thing is that the NFL was a place where socioeconomic status wasn’t going to be…a barrier. And we try to keep that legacy going forward.”

Tyler goes on to explain that every aspect of what the YET and their programs provide are not only a way to reach underprivileged youth, but “most importantly with The Salvation Army, being able to hear about the gospel and give them an opportunity to get in touch with Jesus. Even if it’s just something as simple as a loving interaction with the staff, or something more substantial with a full-on decision for Christ. Being able to provide that opportunity to our youth… our programs are the vehicle for that.”

Tyler says the educational goal of the YET programs is to help children find something that they love. With that in mind, they aim to provide a lot of different types of activities. “Whether it’s STEM, art, music, civics, obviously Bible, biblical education, and physical recreation.”

As a part of the Changemaker Award, Tyler received a special Cowboys jersey, a commemorative football with his name on it, two tickets to the 2024 Super Bowl, and a $10,000 check from the NFL to go toward continuing programs at the YET.

When asked how they intend to utilize this donation, Tyler replied, “One of the things that we’re looking forward to hopefully be able to do is create a ‘maker space.’ Our kids really enjoy working with their hands, creating items of their own across those areas, both STEM and art. But needing the equipment for that gets a little costly.”

William Young, assistant program director for the YET, is already dreaming up how to best employ the funds, looking into 3D printers, Arduino Breadboards to teach basic electronic wiring and programming, and other equipment that will allow the youth to learn and create anything they can imagine making. “We have a room that we’ve basically just been using for storage and being able to utilize the space for creative projects and learning new skills, we’re very excited about that.”

Tyler says over the past few years the YET has developed a wonderful partnership with the Cowboys’ community department, giving rise to a special mentoring program where members from various departments within the Cowboys organization interact with the youth each month. “The biggest thing is that they help show children or youth in our programs what positive adult-child interactions look like and help to build those relationships.” This mentoring program also led to the creation of an incredibly popular new cooking program.

The funds received from the Changemaker Award will also help overhaul this program. Tyler says, “Being able to buy some things like induction plates, frying pans, materials that they would need so that we can cook on a small scale, but still be able to fully create some items. … We just want to expound not only on the cooking side, but also on building on their creativity.”

The NFL highlighted some of Tyler’s efforts, praising his leadership especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, working to keep the YET a place of stability for the community. Kids were able to attend virtual programming through their YET-in-a-Box program, access homework assistance, have a safe space for distance learning, spiritual counseling, and healthy meals. In their online profile for his award, the NFL writes, “Thanks to his work, the YET hallways are filled with laughter and smiles, with youth achieving 100 percent pass rate on state achievement tests that allow students to rise to their next grade level. Tyler is a true Changemaker in the North Texas area, and the Dallas Cowboys are proud to have him in our community impact team, making a difference for those in need.”

“The Cowboys have been excellent partners alongside the Youth Education Town and with The Salvation Army in general,” Tyler declares. When asked about receiving the award, he said it is “an honor and a privilege. It was a humbling experience, and we’re looking forward to what that money will be able to do for our program and being able to support the kids even more with that.”