49ers, local officers, Oakland youth make education and community part of their game plan

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- Building a better Bay Area is a shared responsibility. In Santa Clara, several 49ers players, local law enforcement and a group of Bay Area kids got together to do just that.

An event on Tuesday at Levi's Stadium was meant to help make education and community part of an everyday game plan.

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The collective group explored science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or S.T.E.A.M. for short. The event provided more than 40 boys with Oakland's Brothers on the Rise with a chance to interact with police officers and professional football players.

"I had some opportunities as a young kid, going to sports camps and things like that," 49ers Defensive End, Arik Armstead told ABC7 News. "Being able to meet professional athletes, I always thought it was the coolest thing. And I always looked up to them."

Armstead explained similar events have helped to shape his life.

Armstead, Ross Dwelley, Nick Mullens, Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland, and Azeez Al-Shaair, along with officers from across the Bay Area changed out of their uniforms to focus on unity through 49ers EDU.

"It's a huge responsibility," San Francisco Police Sgt. Kin Lee said. "We all have roles in our occupation. So, learning from the 49ers and the players, and how they interact with the youth, we pick that up too."

Sergeant Lee said the interaction allows students to see officers in a different setting. Adding, it's giving the boys a safe space to engage with police, away from the streets.

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"It gets us out into the community," he said. "Talking to them in a light where it's not an emergency. We're just talking, we're having great conversation. We're learning about each other. That's the key."

"I asked one did they have a dog, and they said yes, they have a canine," eight-year-old Tristen Hughes told ABC7 News about his conversation with a police officer.

He and his friends with Brothers on the Rise had some help putting together shoulder pads, while exercising STEAM lessons.

Tristen said the activity proved anything is possible with teamwork.

"I have so much support that I feel like I could always do things," Tristen said. "And never give up."

When Armstead was asked about S.T.E.A.M, he said, "It's really the future of where our world is going. Especially for these youth to be competitive when they get older, for jobs and things like that, it's super important for them to get that knowledge now and start learning about those things."

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"It's all about community, and we all live in the same community and have to live and dwell with each other," he continued. "And we have to come to an understanding with one another. With the police officers coming in and being able to teach students, and have that special bond, I think it's going to go a long way in the community."

Tuesday's event is part of the NFL's Inspire Change Initiative, which essentially builds a better Bay Area by reducing barriers to opportunity.

In a release, the 49ers explained, "The three priority areas of this initiative are: education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform."

ABC7 News asked whether any of the students gave the athletes a playful hard time, considering the group came from Oakland. Armstead said, "No, all the kids were saying that the Niners are way better than the Raiders now. We'll be able to have a bigger impact on them, winning a lot more games."

The 49ers are currently 6-0.

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