According to NCAA Research, nearly eight million students currently participate in high school athletics in the United States. Approximately .6% of these high school student-athletes will proceed to play collegiately and just a select few within each sport will have the opportunity to compete at the professional or Olympic level. With these statistics in mind, the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have created a program that encourages academic excellence, teamwork, and friendly competition.
On Monday, March 11, the Rams hosted all-school assemblies at Grant & Lincoln High school to recognize their varsity football programs as winners of the Rams' 2018-19 Academic Challenge. During the assemblies, Rams executive JOHNATHAN FRANKLIN along with Super Bowl champion and alumnus ROLAND WILLIAMS addressed the school student bodies to discuss the qualities of leadership and the importance of education and professionalism.
This year's Academic Challenge featured six LAUSD varsity high school football programs from Gardena High School, Grant High School, Hamilton High School, Lincoln High School, South East High School and Venice High School. Each varsity program submitted their team's cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) at the beginning of the fall semester in August and participated in character development sessions, financial literacy workshops, and professional etiquette training. At the end of the Fall semester, the six teams re-submitted their cumulative GPAs and the program that recorded the highest cumulative GPA and the most improved GPA for the semester were named the winners of the Rams 2018-19 Academic Challenge.
"This Academic Challenge with the Rams was huge. It was probably the best thing that we've had to help drive home the value of academics," said Lincoln High School's varsity football coach Chris Rattay. "They helped my kids with financial literacy and taught them communication skills for interviews and public speaking. They did so many great things as part of the program and I think it brought them closer together. We even held tutor and study sessions together and that was because of this Rams challenge."
Additionally, throughout the 2018 season, Academic Challenge participants from each school had the opportunity to serve as Rams Community Water Boys on the sideline during home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Selected students were those who showed consistent improvement in the classroom and demonstrated leadership qualities.
The Rams also presented each of the winning schools with a $2,500 equipment grant to support their football programs.
"We have to fundraise everything, and football is the most expensive sport," said Rattay. "We have so many equipment needs. We're going to be using the grants for the things we need that we wouldn't be able to get otherwise."
Visiting Grant High School in Van Nuys to speak to students was Roland Williams, who was a member of the Rams offense familiarly known as "The Greatest Show on Turf." During the assembly, Williams shared a foundation of values and principles that helped propel him to a successful career both on the field and in life after football.
"Today's a celebration of students working hard and doing what it takes to better themselves on and off the field," said Williams. "All the secrets to life are found within the game of football, and it's the same thing when it comes to education. If they continue to apply the same principles in football to their education, it's going to help them so much in life. I wanted them to realize that no matter who you are, your career ends, and you better have a good education to back up on. And that's why I love the Rams because they take the time to honor students who are doing the right things for their minds. That's the most important thing I believe, who they are in the classroom and off the field."
As a San Fernando Valley native with a decade in public service, Councilmember Paul Krekorian of 2nd District East San Fernando Valley shares the Rams' vision to empower youth in the greater Los Angeles community and to support opportunities that actively encourage civic engagement.
"It's a wonderful partnership that the Rams have with LAUSD to recognize athletes who have improved their GPA over the year. The Los Angeles Rams have been an exceptional citizen of Los Angeles since they came back. They're supporting the community in so many different ways. To see their representatives here for these high school students is a thrill of a lifetime. To be able to meet a Super Bowl participant, that's a big deal for them. And for them to know that the team is acknowledging their success, that's just phenomenal. This is going to be a real boost for their futures."
Footage from this year's Academic Challenge assembly at Grant High School can be viewed here.
For more information about the Rams community outreach programs, please visit www.therams.com/community.