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Weldon native and Duke University football standout Cedric Jones Thursday announced two initiatives to help Roanoke Valley youth on the field and in their athletic endeavors – a free football camp and a scholarship.

“I’m going to challenge some of you today,” the former New England Patriots wide receiver said at the 73rd annual meeting of the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce. “I want you to believe and I’m challenging you to believe you have a greater cause than you currently know.”

The challenge is to help the young people, Jones said, “Because in all the jobs I’ve had I love giving back to our young people. They need us. They need us more than ever.”

Jones said his goal is to start a free football camp in the Roanoke Valley. “I’ve already got some of my NFL buddies lined up. I’ve got some vendors who want to give products as well.”

He said currently the plan is to most likely start the camp next summer “because I want to do it right.”

Then he said he wants to establish a scholarship. “I’m going to need your help in doing that.”

Jones was expected to meet today with newly-hired Halifax Community College President Patrena Elliott to begin planning the scholarship “and how we get everyone involved and how this helps poor kids in our community.”

Jones said all of the elements of the scholarships haven’t been worked out yet. “My plan is to have a number of members work with me in giving annual scholarships to three, four or five kids in the Roanoke Valley area to help them with college to defer some of the costs for them.”

He said the camp is an opportunity to target children ages 6 through 14 to help them “start thinking at an early age about what it means if they want to be a collegiate athlete, what they have to do to be clearing house academically, what they have to do physically and if they tell people what their dream is and if people around them don’t support them and don’t believe in them, it’s time for them to get … some new friends.

Before making the announcement Jones asked the audience to talk to the young people about being a solution in the country and not a problem. “Talk to them about getting politically active. Talk to them about being members of chambers of commerce and what that means. We don’t have the right to complain about policies and our government people if we don’t exercise our right to vote. Get them involved.”

Jones said to tell the young men of the community, “Anybody can be a father biologically but it takes a real man to be a dad. Let’s tell our young ladies to become strong women of character and knowledge and let’s help those young men raise great families.”

Jones, who said earlier in his address that some people said he didn’t have what it took to get into Duke, let alone play at the college level, said the same applies to youth now. “People will tell them all the time you’re not good enough, you’re not smart enough, not tall enough. They told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to college but I graduated from Duke – president’s award-winner, top scholar athlete. They told me I wasn’t good enough to play college sports but I became an All-American, All-ACC, a member of the Sports Hall of Fame. They told me I couldn’t go to work in a major city like New York but I did.”

Not only was he the director of athletics at the New York Athletic Club but after his playing days he worked with the NFL. And now he works at the number one all-boys private school in New England. “Hope, dream, and a plan can take you anywhere but a dream without a plan is just a wish. Let’s help our young people develop that plan.”