The Rams and Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) hosted assemblies for more than 500 students at George Washington Preparatory High School and Alexander Hamilton High School to recognize each varsity football program as Rams Academic Challenge winners. The George Washington Preparatory varsity football team was awarded for achieving the most improved GPA and the Alexander Hamilton varsity football team was awarded for achieving the highest GPA.
"Based on NCAA data, California has the highest number of non-qualified athletes from minority communities, with a third being from Los Angeles," said Noel Grigsby, Rams Community Affairs and Engagement representative. "One of our goals is to combat educational inequities and the Academic Challenge motivates these athletes to perform not only on the field but in the classroom. It stresses the importance of being a student first because you never stop learning, even when you're done playing football."
Rams Legends Todd Lyght and Brandon Manumaleuna joined the assemblies to congratulate the students and participate in a discussion moderated by Rams Director of Social Justice and Football Development Johnathan Franklin.
"The thing about education is that you're always going to need it. I played in the NFL for a few years, and I was able to have some success but when I finished, I still needed a degree to fall back on," said Manumaleuna.
Understanding the impact their words would have on the young athletes, the Legends discussed goals, character, education and life after sports.
"Many students come from tough backgrounds and everybody doesn't have a silver spoon. You have to be able to work through that. I think this group did a phenomenal job of going to study hall, being consistent with their work ethic and getting the results that they deserve," said Lyght. "You can't be an athlete without being a student first and I think this group knows the importance of that. I'm thankful for the Rams who came out here to celebrate this group of young men."
Following the discussions, each football program was presented with $2,500 equipment grants, courtesy of USA Football. All players and coaches also received gift cards to Stonefire Grill and students from each school received Rams-branded rally towels.
"Education is the key to success. It's interesting, you hear it all the time, 'Knowledge is power,' and it's true," said Tony Booker, Washington Preparatory Principal.
This year's Academic Challenge featured varsity high school football programs from Alexander Hamilton High School, Benjamin Franklin High School, Crenshaw High School, East Valley High School, Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School, George Washington Preparatory High School, John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, John Marshall High School, Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, Nathaniel Narbonne High School, Santee Education Complex, Susan Miller Dorsey Senior High School and Sylmar Charter High School. Each program submitted the cumulative GPA of its players at the beginning and end of the 2021 season. Additionally, each team participated in weekly one-hour study halls and monitored academic progress throughout the season.
"We saw significant improvements among all 13 schools over the course of the Academic Challenge," explained Grigsby. "We saw all schools improve by a GPA of .15, going from an overall 2.74 to an average of 2.89."
Through the Rams Academic Challenge program, which launched in 2017, the team has provided more than $22,000 in equipment grants to varsity football programs in Los Angeles.
To learn more about the Rams' community efforts, please visit www.therams.com/community