The Rams partnered with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to launch a 4-month career panel series for more than 3,000 juniors and seniors from six schools throughout the four LAUSD regions – North, East, West and South. The panel also included a virtual NCAA presentation that highlighted the importance of core classes, discussed how to build good study habits and create NCAA Eligibility Profiles.
To kick off the series, the Rams visited Jordan High School and Manuel Arts High School. Rams Director of Social Justice and Football Development, Johnathan Franklin, led an in-person panel discussion with Rams Coordinator of Social Justice and Football Development Noel Grigsby, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Sergeant Mariano Moreno and Officers Alfonso Velasco and Jeff Nelson, and City Year's Community Partnership Manager, Samuel Blanco, about their career journeys and the importance of higher education.
"The goal of this is to create exposure and opportunity," said Franklin. "We want to come to these schools and provide access to our brand, but also give the youth hope. They are the future leaders and future generation. Having these panels and giving them access to the NCAA gives students what they need to be the best versions of themselves."
Franklin is a proud alumnus of LAUSD and UCLA. Before serving as the Director of Social Justice and Football Development for the Rams, Franklin played in the NFL. After an injury cut his rookie year short, he transitioned to the corporate side of football.
"I'm an alum of LAUSD, attended Dorsey High School and was able to go to UCLA. I played for the Green Bay Packers and was injured 12 games in. I personally know the dream of making it to the NFL and having it gone and figuring out what the backup plan is. What's your hope and what is your why? What is your identity? Personally, I'm excited to come to these schools being a product of LAUSD, having my career taken away early on and having to figure out what's the next step. To have community partners inside these schools provides access to hope, helps them think beyond sports, define success, and create the pipelines for how to achieve the success."
Officer Alfonso Velasco of the LAPD Youth Program Unit gave the students insight into his journey of becoming a police officer. Growing up, he strayed away from interactions with police officers until having a conversation with an officer from his hometown neighborhood. That one conversation led him into a career in law enforcement helping the youth of Los Angeles.
"I see myself in the students. I was once in their position," said Officer Velasco. "Growing up as a teenager I was not a fan of police officers. It was not until one of the sergeants from Gardena where I am from spoke to me. He told me since I had so much dislike toward police officers, that I should explore and see what exactly police officers do. That conversation is what started my police journey."
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is an organization dedicated to providing a pathway to opportunity for college athletes. More than 1,100 colleges and universities are members of the NCAA. Those schools work together with the NCAA national office and athletics conferences across the country to support 500,000 college athletes that make up more than 19,500 teams competing in NCAA sports. During the presentation, the NCAA discussed the steps students must take to join and participate in a Division I, Division II, or Division III program.
According to the NCAA, California ranks first in the country for the state with the highest overall number of college non-qualifiers who are from Black/Brown communities and 34% of the state's non-qualifiers are from Los Angeles. In addition, there has been a decrease of Black and Brown educators and law enforcement officers. According to Dr. Travis J. Bristol of the University of California, Berkeley, 1.7% of all U.S. public school teachers are Black men and according to the LAPD, less than 10% of their officers are Black.
The goal of the career panel series is to increase diversity and representation in various careers and industries, build pipelines, expose students to career pathways, and increase the numbers to reach a diversity of thought, ideas and perspectives.
To learn more about the Rams' community efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community.