In Arik Armstead's latest edition of Storytime with Arik Armstead, the San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman read "All Because You Matter" by Tami Charles to hundreds of students at McKinley Elementary in San Francisco. The three-time 49ers Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee was recognized for his philanthropic efforts by CBS Bay Area and has been awarded the station's Jefferson Award.
The Jefferson Award is founded by Multiplying Good, an organization that honors individuals who serve others and bring about meaningful change. Armstead received the award for his extraordinary public service to Bay Area youth with his storytime events.
Started in 2020, the Storytime with Arik Armstead program motivates students to improve their reading skills. In addition to visiting schools in person and reading via Zoom, Armstead has helped distribute books that emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion and support Black-owned businesses and authors of color to over 2,000 San Francisco Unified School District students and over 2,000 Boys & Girls Club members. He has reached over 5,000 youth from first to fifth grade from Sacramento to Qatar and has covered topics such as equality, Black history and sustainability.
"That's really the main thing: Inspire them to want to read, find reading fun, find it important and encourage them to continue reading," Armstead said.
Believing that literacy and guidance are integral to success, the 49ers team captain created the storytime program as a way to empower at-risk and underserved students who are behind in their Language Arts levels. Armstead also shared that he himself struggled with reading as a child.
"It became an anxiety-provoking thing for me," Armstead said. "I was scared to read out loud, I didn't think I was smart enough and it just took some extra work, support and people helping me," Armstead said.
Storytime with Arik Armstead is just one initiative apart of the defensive lineman's non-profit organization, the Armstead Academic Project. His non-profit has also hosted football camps, mentored juvenile detention students, sponsored college tours and funded affordable housing in his hometown of Sacramento, California.
"That's just what I believe in, education is key. Our youth are the future," Armstead said. "I just want to be an impact on young people's lives and give them the opportunities and tools they need to be successful."
Through 49ers Read for Justice presented by Newfront, 4,750 elementary school students in Santa Clara Unified received a copy of The Name Jar and participated in a live reading and discussion of the book with Arik Armstead.