After highschool, he attended Butler Community College and the University of Idaho where he continued to play football. After college, he was drafted into the NFL where he had a short stint with the Arizona Cardinals.“I don’t know…..it just ended so quick and I was back to square one. Broke. No idea what I wanted to do…..hey, I tell the kids all the time, it’s okay. No matter what situation you’re in, you can figure it out” And Mao has figured it out.
Presently, he sits on the Mayor’s Gang Task Force committee. He has won a Chamber Award for his work with the youth. In 2006 he started the PRIDE club to combat gang activity and provide a safe and nurturing environment for teens.
The PRID E club, in partnership with nonprofit organization Communities in Schools, chartered an after school program at East High School. Over 80 students enrolled in the program, which met 3x a week. This arrangement ended just recently due to allegations that included poor records, lack of attendance, and accountability issues. (mostly kids from other schools started coming) “I’m not going to say that I couldn’t be a little more organized,” he notes, “but having other kids coming? Well….that’s GREAT…isn’t it?” he laughs.
Though the program has ended at East, it’s not the last of the PRIDE club.“I have a great team with me and we’re building from the ground up.” he says “We’re going to be strong. Build strong. Stay strong.”
In the meantime? He’s going to do what he does best. Connecting with today’s youth. Reaching out. Encouraging. Mentoring.“I have a commitment to these kids,” he states.
That commitment is evident. While the business plans are being restructured, Mao still organizes weekly events for the youth. It’s not unusual for him to pick up carloads of kids after school to take them to the rec center, or out for a bite to eat. Anything to keep them active and healthy, and more importantly, out of trouble.
Last summer, the PRIDE club reached out to over 700 youth by means of healthy and fun activities. Three days a week they would have excursions at Goose Lake. The weekends included sporting events in the Cellular One Center. This summer he means to do the same exact thing. One event in particular, is the “Wild about Youth” summer program which is in partnership with the Alaska Wild Football League who he signed on with in 2007.
Mao remains the consistent foundation of his own dream. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When given just a little, he has proven he can make it stretch as far as it needs to. With each setback he faces, he pushes forward with tenacity. With his optimistic spirit and steadfast determination, the PRIDE club is soon to be a permanent fixture in Alaska.