Picking up STEAM: This NFL Team Is Bridging the Gap Between Sports and Academics

photo:  Paolo De Gasperis/shutterstock

photo:  Paolo De Gasperis/shutterstock

Now that we’re in the thick of football season, we thought we’d take a look at what some of the NFL teams are doing off the field. Youth causes are typically a big deal for sports team foundations because so many young people look up to these athletes as mentors. One such funder is the 49ers Foundation in San Francisco.

This is a team foundation that has recently partnered with big-name corporations in the area, such as Chevron, to further its youth-focused goals, especially in regards to STEAM education. The 49ers continue striving to make the line between sports and academics a little less blurred in an effort to get kids interested and involved in subjects that lead to good jobs.

So, to that end, the 49ers brought together its foundation’s STEAM education program and its 49ers Academy to target youth in East Palo Alto. This academy is a nonprofit agency embedded in the public school system that provides services to middle and high school students. Through the lens of the game of football, the team hosted an all-day school assembly with stations set up to show how STEAM and football are surprisingly connected. East Palo Alto students were also surprised with an upcoming field trip to Levi’s Stadium at the assembly.

“We believe in you, and we believe that a future for everyone is a great education,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. “We want to inspire you to be whatever you want to be when you grow up, and we’d like to help you get there. That’s why we’re going to make sure you are fired up to learn and to continue on a path of education.”

In addition to the one-day STEAM assembly, the foundation also announced a new commitment to after-school programming that will be made available to over 125 seventh and eighth grade students this school year. The 49ers STEAM team, which is made up of the franchise’s STEAM teachers, will travel to East Palo Alto six times this school year to host after-school sessions. The one-hour sessions will be optional and further drive home the point that STEAM principals make football possible.There’s another incentive in it for the kids too. Students who participate in all the sessions and work in a group to present a special STEAM project will receive tickets to a 2018 preseason home game.

The funder has indicated that is just the first component to a longstanding effort for STEAM learning in East Palo Alto, so stay tuned for more to come on this.  Overall, the 49ers Foundation plans to reach over 210,000 K-8 participants by the end of the school year. STEAM education has been a big priority for this funder since 2014, and its STEAM program has reached more than 160,000 local student participants so far. Grant applications are accepted by the 49ers Foundation on an invitation-only basis.