49ers help low income kids through academy


The kids put on the news -- 49ers style. Sixth graders put on a show in a media center paid for by Jerry Rice and Steve Young. The high-tech studio is just one part of the 49ers Academy - a public middle school supported by a non-profit partnership with the 49ers football team. The idea is to make sure students in low income East Palo Alto get the same opportunities as kids in wealthier areas.

"Most of our students do fall below the poverty levels. Sometimes we serve students that are homeless, that are in foster care," said Avani Patel, the 49ers Academy dean.

The 49er Academy fills in the gaps with an extended school day, extra-curricular activities, counseling, free after school programs, and caring adults who don't give up. Test scores have gone up each of the last six years. Student after student told us the academy is like a family.

"It has a lot of people that are here to help you," said Maya.

"It just makes me feel at home," said Paola Williams.

All these extra services cost about a$1 million a year, generated through the partnership with the 49ers.

"We are a small organization, but we get a lot of notoriety, so when we get involved we can get other people involved," said 49ers Co-Owner John York, M.D.

A gala at the home of Warriors owner Joe Lacob is the school's biggest fundraiser. Guests mingle with former players and bid on memorabilia to the tune of $400,000 in donations. Quarterback Alex Smith is a supporter.

"We are all student athletes at one time and it starts in school. School comes first," said Smith.

A few lucky students get to attend the party, but their real prize is the 49ers support for their school.

"Having them continue to support us and provide this kind of wrap around services to our children is just incredible," said Ravenswood School District superintendent Maria De La Vega.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

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