The 49ers defensive end is tackling the “achievement gap and financial gap between socioeconomic classes” in his home city through education
At the end of the 2020 season, San Francisco 49ers edge rusher Arik Armstead was the recipient of the “Perry/Yonamine Unity Award,” which is presented to the player on the team who exhibits an exceptional commitment to promoting unity within the team and their community.
Let’s recap with the Bay Area native has done to benefit others over the last couple of years.
If you were to look up the word philanthropist, a picture of Armstead would appear. He has gone above and beyond for his hometown of Sacramento, where as of last year, the Armstead Academic Project had raised over $200,000 to reinvest into his community.
At the end of August 2021, Armstead announced he was giving away $250,000 to the Sacramento community. So, in one day, he surpassed all of the previous donations.
Armstead’s primary focus has been on education. For example, during the pandemic, in an effort to ensure children in the Sacramento community had the resources to continue their education virtually, Armstead donated $50,000 and personally delivered 350 Chromebooks along with one year of pre-paid internet service and education kits to multi-student families through Sacramento’s Mercy Housing, which provides low-income housing.
It’s one thing to write a check and move on. It’s a whole other to donate your personal time and let the kids see the face of who is donating all of this money.
If you’ve ever done any charity events or been to them as the guest, the joy on the youths’ faces when they see a star show up is priceless. That is just part of what Armstead is giving to his community.
During Week 10 of the 2020 season, Armstead won the NFLPA Community MVP, which recognizes players who have demonstrated a commitment to making a positive impact in their community. In addition, he launched “Storytime with Arik Armstead,” which promoted literacy and was designed to help motivate students to read.
From May 2020 through the end of the year, that program impacted more than 440 elementary kids from first to fourth grade. In addition, the program had 21 virtual classroom visits in more than 15 school districts from Sacramento to Doha, Qatar. The topics ranged from equality, black history, sustainability, and much more.
Armstead launched his “Armstead Academic Project” in 2019 with the mission statement to “ensure every student, no matter their socioeconomic status has direct access to quality education through a positive learning environment and resources needed in order to thrive and be successful.”
Armstead spoke about the reason he wanted to get this project off the ground: “When I sat down and thought about how I could have the biggest impact in Sacramento. The No. 1 glaring theme in terms of when you look at equality in our society, the achievement gap and financial gap between socioeconomic classes, education was glaring for me to address some of those issues.”
The Armstead Academic Project offers various to assist and empower at-risk and underserved students, including creative and scholastic workshops, school supply programs, and scholarships.
In 2018, Armstead took a group of students from Leataata Floyd Elementary School, located in downtown Sacramento, to a creative writing workshop. They wrote a story together about a crime-fighting rapper with superpowers. How cool is that? These are the types of events and programs Armstead does with his charity and how he spends his time.
Armstead also wants to educate the media and use his platform to speak out on social injustices that he feels strongly about and create dialogue and conversation — specifically about hate crimes.
I asked Arik what he thinks is the best way to approach somebody who doesn’t look like you, but is ignorant or oblivious to the social injustices that go around daily in the country:
“I think it can be as simple as you walking down the street and saying hello,” he said. “Being polite. Nice. Knocking down that wall. That invisible wall that may be there for somebody that doesn’t know you. People will be pleasantly surprised like, ‘hey, that’s a nice person. They didn’t have to do that.’
“Showing that you care or want to learn about other people. Not being so self-absorbed about what’s going on in your life. Try to show some other interests in things that you don’t have experience on. I think those are two simple ways that you can start knocking down those walls.”
Armstead’s heart and mind are in the right place. He’s done a tremendous job of giving back to his community and has hinted at partnering with more companies to keep his message about social injustices alive.
Check out Armstead’s website to learn more about his humanitarian efforts.