Since the 49ers launched their EDU program in 2014, STEAM education has become a huge part of the organization. 49ers EDU presented by Chevron leverages the game of football and Levi's® Stadium as a platform to expose students at an early age to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) concepts and careers, creating excitement and engagement around learning for over 300,000 Bay Area students to date. The program began in four classrooms housed in Levi's® Stadium, but has since expanded virtually.
Over the years, players, coaches and front office staff have volunteered their time as guest teachers with the program helping students K-8 build 21st century skills and foundational STEAM knowledge to better prepare them as future leaders of their communities. The success of the EDU program led the 49ers to launch EDU Academy, an education consulting venture, in 2017 to carry forward the mission of 49ers EDU by working with like-minded organizations to help young students establish a stronger connection with STEAM through sport.
In 2019, EDU Academy announced a partnership with Play Like a Girl (PLAG) to introduce a STEAM education curriculum to PLAG female youth. PLAG is the only 501(c)3 charitable organization in the nation providing high-impact STEAM and sports programs to girls in a supportive environment. EDU Academy took PLAG through a strategic planning process to build a standard-aligned curriculum with a specific pedagogical focus on project-based learning and 21st century learning skills.
"The partnership between Play Like a Girl and EDU Academy has always been one that is near and dear to my heart and we are so proud to be a part of the incredible work they are doing to inspire girls of all ages to become the next generation of leaders in STEM," said Jesse Lovejoy, director of 49ers EDU and managing partner of EDU Academy.
The strategic planning process that EDU Academy and PLAG undertook culminated in them hosting the inaugural STEM+ Hackathon challenge for 50 Bay Area girls. The goal of the Hackathon was to inspire and educate girls on the importance and intersection of STEAM and sports. The event gave 8th and 9th grade girls the opportunity to create innovative solutions to the gender gap in STEAM with a special emphasis on sports, while also hearing from leading women in the STEAM field.
Since this partnership began, PLAG has continued to grow and expand their reach. Lovejoy brought PLAG into the Sport and STEM Alliance, of which the 49ers Foundation is a founding member. The alliance is a coalition of like-minded, leading global organizations who share a common goal of further understanding how sport can be used in STEAM education. Lovejoy and Dr. Kimberly Clay, founder and CEO of Play Like a Girl, have also appeared at several speaking engagements and conferences together, including the Beyond Innovation conference at Dodgers Stadium in 2019. PLAG made national headlines in 2020 when Sarah Fuller, the first female kicker to score in a Power 5 game, sported the organization's name on the back of her helmet.
In honor of Women's History Month, PLAG is hosting the 2021 Play Like a Girl Women's Leadership Summit on March 19th to bring successful, emerging and future women leaders together (though apart) to shape a stronger world. At the summit, Lovejoy will be participating in a fireside chat, along with other male allies to talk about what it means to be an effective ally and how it's important to participate in hard conversations, balance and dedicate time to support others, have a pulse on what opportunities are available, be willing to learn from mistakes and have the patience to commit to gender equity, racial justice and systems of change for the long haul.
Lovejoy will also be serving as a mentor along with Sofy Navarro, senior manager of 49ers EDU, for the Executive Auction. The auction will offer bidders the opportunity to compete for highly-coveted mentorship experiences with the nation's top corporate executives, elite athletes, entertainers, investors and so many more who can potentially propel your company or career skyward.
"I am so excited to partner with the 49ers EDU team, which directly connects to our mission of STEM education and access for all, particularly middle school girls," said Dr. Clay. "I especially want to thank Sofy Navarro for donating her time to mentor women business leaders and professionals as part of our Executive Auction and Jesse Lovejoy for his time and mentorship as a speaker at our Inaugural Women's Leadership Summit."