In an interview with ESSENCE, the dynamic duo of Ayesha Curry and NBA All-Star Steph Curry announced a major commitment to the Oakland Unified Public School District. The couple’s foundation, “Eat. Learn. Play,” is pledging $50 million to the district to support Oakland’s students between now and 2026.
“We want to really support and amplify the systems that are already in place within the school district and commit a $50 Million plus plan and strategy that’s been developed over these last years,” Steph says.
This commitment to the school system would,”really meet the kids where they are and really support them in ways that– across those three pillars– would unlock their full potential,” he notes.
Those three pillars– eating, learning, and playing– are important for a number of metrics.
“Almost 78% of kids qualify for either free or low-cost meal plans. To buff up what’s provided in terms of healthy, nutritious meals is a bare necessity that every kid deserves. So [we’re] showing up in meaningful way there. Obviously, [with] empty stomachs [it’s] hard to show up in a classroom and be productive,” Steph says.
As far as learning, the couple is planning to improve literacy rates. “Our literacy goals are huge, because the third grade reading level and accomplishments there are…metrics for high school completion,” Steph states. “Around 66% of third graders in the OUSD system are below grade level proficiency.”
They want students to have access to tutors as well as access to “culturally relevant and age appropriate books” to improve those scores.
Play, and organized sports in particular, supports “the fundamentals of communication, understanding how to build relationships, and just your overall character, [as well as] time management, understanding how to have a routine in life,” Ayesha shares.
“Within the school district,” organized sports can be “a big part of elevating and amplifying their entire school experience,” Steph adds.
“We’ve had some success over the last four years, worked with some amazing organizations, some amazing partners, reached a lot of kids. And now we’re trying to take it to the next level in terms of really setting up roots and planting a flag with the Oakland Unified School District [and] the 35,000 kids that they serve every year where kids, pun intended, eat learn and play every single day,” Steph states.
Some of this past success includes remodeling schoolyards in multiple schools and “providing funding for literacy tutoring, replenishing books for the school library, providing funding for students to have access to high-quality sports programming, upgrad[ing] the school kitchen and cafeteria and more,” at Lockwood STEAM Academy in East Oakland, a statement reads.
With the enhanced commitment, Steph notes that he and his wife are “excited about it…It’s something we’re extremely confident we can deliver on.”
“A lot of people ask why partner with the school district? There are happy teachers and happy educators and people within the school system that want to make the change and the impact,” Ayesha urges. “It really just does come down to access. So to be able to provide that access to the teachers and faculty within the school system to set these kids up for success is really exciting.”
WATCH the full interview above.