Education has always been a priority for Kelvin Beachum, who says it has been “interwoven” throughout his life.
Selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 2012 draft from Southern Methodist University, he is now the Cardinals starting right tackle but has always invested time and resources in the communities where he’s lived in the area of education.
That led to involvement over the last six years with the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas with the Kelvin Konnects initiative and Full STEAM Ahead. The goal continues to be providing minority access to careers in STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.
In recognition of his ongoing work, the NFL and its Inspire Change social justice initiative broadcast the video above Tuesday on NFL Access on NFL Network.
Beachum’s involvement with the Obama Academy evolved from a conversation he had with its founder Nakia Douglas, who is now at the University of North Texas.
“It was crazy,” Beachum told AllCardinals. “I was just texting him, I would say last week or the week before last. (The academy) just celebrated their 10-year anniversary. It's crazy to think about how long that school has been impacting the region and the community in South Dallas. It's been cool to see how they've progressed and how they started to garner not only state attention, but also national attention for the academic success that they've had there.
“It's just been an organic relationship that happened over the years. Being from Texas, going to SMU, I wanted to be able to impact kids in the region. It's crazy that some of the same teachers that taught at Obama were some of the same teachers early on in my collegiate career that I would go to the schools and actually be able to speak to some of their kids. So it's crazy to see how things come full circle. It does take time to see the fruits of the labor that people put into education.”
He formally adopted the school in 2015 and as of 2019, the enrollment that year was 458 students. Those students have been impacted by Beachum's support as his work has included a speaker series that benefits the entire school population, field trips specific to different grade levels, mentorship, college touring, spring and summer learning program funding, and teacher development.
Beachum emphasizes how life-altering it can be for those that stick to it.
“Once you see years upon years of how education has been able to impact young people's lives, you can see how important it is to not only changing the stereotypes associated with certain folks in education, but also changes their role in the global economy,” he said. “And for me, being able to be a positive contributor to the global economy is ultimately what I want to impart on these young people that I spend time with.”
Two of those featured are Timothy McCall and Sienzhi Kouemo. McCall works for Goldman Sachs, while Kouemo is studying for his MBA at SMU.
Beachum recalls meeting them when he started his journey with STEAM. He said, “Those interactions became real relationships that came out of just wanting to sell somebody on education and now being a part of their career journey whatever twists and turns they may have taken.”
Being an athlete, Beachum believes, gave him credibility when mentoring youngsters well before they reach college age.
He said, “When I spoke to them some years ago, I told them everybody can't play pro football, but everybody can go pro in STEAM. I truly believe that, and that's something that I've held true.”
He joked that he should trademark that sentiment, but insisted, “I'm really adamant about making sure that you can go pro in STEAM, that STEAM education is very, very possible. And it's actually more lucrative over the long haul than being a pro athlete in some instances. So, I think that's super important that I try to make sure that I expressed to them and also what we do with the access that we're providing, with the curriculum that we're helping contribute to, with some of the exposure opportunities that we've helped with as far as allowing these young people to go see different colleges.
“And also with the speakers that we brought in in the past to make sure that the diversity of those speakers provide an opportunity for these young people to see there's so much more than just being an athlete and so much more out there. And then the education around the tech realm, whether it's science, technology, engineering, math, arts, what have you. There's so much out there that's intertwined with and can produce the type of career that you can be proud of.”
Beachum is pleased with how the NFL supports what players choose to do to make impacts in their communities while some believe the league can do even more.
“I think the NFL has done a really good job of allowing the players to utilize the shield and utilize the platform that the NFL has,” Beachum said. “The NFL has millions and millions of followers and fans all across social media, all across the different networks the NFL games are played on. So to be able to leverage those networks and leverage that platform to allow people to see the genuine and authentic players that are in the National Football League, I think it bodes well, not only for the NFL, but it bodes well for society.
“We have athletes that are role models. People see us in a much different light than the doctor or the lawyer that they interact with on a day-to-day basis. We carry a different type of weight when we talk and represent ourselves to the public. So to be able to allow us to utilize this platform, to be able to share things we're working on and places we're being able to impact I think it's super instrumental.”
He also realizes one other reality, noting, “I can say that everybody needs to do more. I mean, society is not perfect. But I think it’s important if everybody would find a way to do a little bit more in whatever capacity that they can to be a positive contributor to society.”
Finally, though, the question had to be asked whether he has met former President Obama.
Beachum said, “I actually have a picture of him and my oldest daughter when she was maybe two that’s in my office. We were at the White House when we met him. It wasn't like a formal sitdown that I desire to have one day, but my daughter has an experience that she has no idea about.”