San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead is a Bay Area native, and the 30-year-old star has gone leaps and bounds to bring education awareness to his hometown.
“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,” Armstead said.
In 2019, Armstead launched his “Armstead Academic Project,” which is used 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.”
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In addition, he started the “Storytime with Arik Armstead,” which promotes literacy and is used to help motivate students to read. Since then, he has impacted almost 5,000 kids from first to fifth grade. The program has also implemented over 20 virtual classroom visits in more than 15 school districts from Sacramento to Doha, Qatar. The visits incorporate topics that range from equality, Black history, social sustainability and much more.
Armstead says that the kids in his program inspire him not only to keep going, but to continue to play football at a high level, which will allow him to keep providing for his program.
It is no surprise that Armstead is heavily involved with social change and education. He said that growing up, his house was often filled with conversations and debates.
“Conversations about social change and conversations on how we better our community would come up often in our family," Armstead told NBC. “I was thinking that education is the number one key to solving a lot of issues in our society.”
Armstead was born in Sacramento, Calif., and went on to attend Pleasant Grove High School in Elk Grove. His family is also filled with athletes. Armstead’s father, Guss, played basketball at Sacramento State and his brother, Armond, played football at USC and spent a season playing with the New England Patriots before retiring from football in 2014.
The following year, the 49ers selected Armstead in the first round (17th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Not only has Armstead created his own program, but he has made countless donations to other programs as well. Last year, he partnered with Mercy Housing, an affordable housing developer in the Sacramento area, and gave $250,000 as part of his “Armstead Academy” after-school program for seventh-12th graders. The money helped to pay for staffing supplies and field trips.
In May 2022, he visited and read to a classroom of second-and third-grade students at Leataata Floyd Elementary School in Sacramento. He also provided the students with glasses, sponsored by Zenni, to help them read.
Armstead has already done so much for his community but as he says, “there’s a lot more work to do.”
The 49ers named Armstead their 2020, 2021 and 2022 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year honor, which is given each year to a player who demonstrates outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field.
This article was originally posted in November 2022.