Introducing The P.A.S.S. Program’s Virtual Classroom

September 15, 2020
Oliver Nissi
Pirates Insider

The Massachusetts Pirates are embodied with NFL-caliber players, a highly experienced coaching staff and an award-winning front office, but what really separates this indoor football team from the other groups in the bunch are its fans. Pirates fans come in ages, backgrounds, shapes and sizes, and some of the organization’s most spirited fans are kids. The Pirates are always excited to have younger fans at the DCU Center on game days, but are even more fired up to assist them in their own lives.

The Pirates Assistance of Student Success (P.A.S.S.) Program is a fun and connecting initiative that is designed to promote literacy and healthy habits for the organization’s local youth. Massachusetts’ indoor football team is dedicated in supporting the learning and academic development of students at all levels. The Pirates have been seen at elementary, secondary, high schools and even on college campuses, and have participated in events such as school field days, after school programs and school assemblies dozens of times since the team’s inauguration in 2018.

There are several sectors of the P.A.S.S. Program, ranging from reading to writing and physical education. Pirates players and staff have helped students achieve homework objectives and some of the work completed by students has appeared on the team’s social media posts. Players have also aided in increasing students’ teamwork and motivational skills in events like ‘mini football combines’.

Pirates wide receiver Thomas Owens enjoyed an afternoon with students from the Shaw and Elmwood Elementary Schools in Millbury, Massachusetts (2019).

Pirates starting quarterback Sean Brackett recently visited St. Peter Elementary School in Cambridge and reflected on the experience. “I really do enjoy talking to the kids. I tell them to always listen to their parents and teachers. With focus and hard work, the kids can become anything they want to be. I teach at an elementary school myself, and when you set a good example and are a positive role model, the kids respond very well to that. I hope that I can influence the kids positively, even if it is just one thing.”

Since the inception of the P.A.S.S. Program, nearly all of its initiatives have occurred on school grounds, but as we all adjust to a different lifestyle in the midst of the pandemic, virtual learning is perhaps more applicable than ever before. Most students are staying indoors and participating in at-home virtual classroom settings. The Massachusetts Pirates are proud to continue the P.A.S.S. Program and, at this time, believe the most efficient path to take is a virtual one.

Pirates Director of Marketing Jesse Heninger spoke on the organization’s decision to introduce the virtual branch of the P.A.S.S. Program. “The Pirates are thankful to have the opportunity to still be in the lives of our young fans and be a part of their educational journeys virtually, while we all wait patiently until we are back with everyone again.”

Some topics that will be covered in the virtual classroom are anti-bullying and players’ advice on treating the body effectively through nutrition and exercise. Players will also share their personal experiences while adjusting to quarantine, their personal academic experiences and collegiate preparation techniques.

Julia Burkhardt, the Pirates Director of Community Outreach, has helped introduce the P.A.S.S. Program to a number of local schools and believes the newly-added virtual branch has significant potential. “I think it will fare greatly in a virtual setting actually. It gives us much more flexibility with players and staff that can get involved, especially during the offseason. Most of our players live far away, but in a virtual setting they can still join classes, which will enable us to really tailor our appearances to the school and what they are looking for more readily!”

The Massachusetts Pirates have found great warmth in assisting the local communities and want to build on the strong relationships that have been created, and additionally, foster new ones as well. Interested principles, teachers, and school leaders that would like to incorporate the P.A.S.S. Program to their school programs can email the Pirates at or reach out to Julia Burkhardt at (508) 462-6277. Students are being faced with a lot of adversity right now, and the Pirates want to do everything in their power to help.

The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email or visit Single-game tickets are available online at or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard