Steph And Ayesha Curry Pour Into Oakland Students With $50M ‘Eat. Learn. Play’ Investment, newsletter 2,
The start of a new school year can look different depending on the area.
For some students, a new school year means showing off new clothes and another chance to be at the top of the class. In areas of students less fortunate, it’s a struggle. Thankfully, four-time NBA champion Steph Curry and his wife, New York Times best-selling author Ayesha, have used their success to make sure those underprivileged students aren’t left behind.
On Sept. 6, through their Eat. Learn. Play organization the Currys announced a $50 million commitment to Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in California, guaranteeing students continue to receive proper resources for a successful school year. The students will be provided with healthy meals, support to become stronger readers, improved schoolyards, and opportunities to participate in youth sports, something the power couple is very passionate about. “We realized there is so much more that needs to be done,” Ayesha told Black Enterprise. “So we are just fired up.”
The Oakland-based charity launched in 2019 and hit the ground running. Eat. Learn. Play. has reached amazing strides over the last four years using its three-pillar approach: nutrition, education, and physical activity. On top of raising millions of dollars, Eat. Learn. Play. has partnered with the school district to ensure students receive breakfast and lunch. The Golden State Warrior point guard stated there is a high percentage of qualifying kids eligible for free or low-cost meals each day, which is a great place to start.
“An empty stomach is hard to instill learning,” Steph admits.
“There’s a lot of data on the success of that but also the inaccessibility for a lot of students in terms of providing support for their educational journey.”
The team has done research and found that striving at a third-grade reading level is key to reaching high school graduation and feeling alert with 60 minutes of activeness during the day. To achieve these goals, Eat. Learn. Play. grants access to tutoring and gives the kids appropriate books to form a love for reading with a mobile resource center that holds 100,000 books annually for families in the community.
Committing $50 million shows the vision of the Charlotte, North Carolina natives for the community they’ve impacted over the years. The parents of three both acknowledge the challenges of Eat. Learn. Play. went through, like a global pandemic shutting schools down, and pleased with the growth.
“To be at this point where you can take the learnings, the successes and identifying what the true need is, it’s exciting to know that we can elevate their school experience,” Steph said.
“We’re looking to support initiatives already in place and continue to galvanize hope and inspiration that we can be a part of changing kids’ future.”
OUSD and ELP work with over 35,000 kids in 80 schools each year—not an easy feat. But thanks to community and corporate partners, the Currys can cover 100% of Eat. Learn. Play. ’s administrative and fundraising costs as a way of making sure the raised funding goes right back into the community. Over the years, ELP has established relationships with global commodities like Workday, an on-demand cloud-based software vendor, and Alameda County Community Food Bank, to name a few, making sure these commitments come to life.
After promising to enhance elementary and middle school cafeterias throughout the district, the next step is revitalizing playgrounds and giving students a fresh and safe space for positive play. Throughout 2023, Eat. Learn. Play. and Workday are working together to remodel six schoolyards on select district campuses, including state-of-the-art multisport courts, mini soccer pitches, play structures designed by the kids, community gardens, outdoor classrooms, and reading areas, and murals. According to Steph, having a play paradise like this sets a positive tone for what the future can look like for kids, maybe even one day following in the decorated athlete’s footsteps.
The work partners’ most recent project put smiles on students’ faces at Lockwood STEAM Academy in East Oakland after Eat. Learn. Play. and Workday provided a remodeled schoolyard. Lockwood is a small testimony of what can happen when you end playspace inequity. Workday CEO and Co-Founder Aneel Bhursi, along with the Currys, fund the foundation of the playground, and Workday employees come in to clean up, which he says were in pretty bad shape beforehand.
“The play part has been a great way to engage our employees,” Bhursi said.
“It helps build community and gets Oakland back on track.”
The Bay Area isn’t the only place that needs help. In 2019, an article was published revealing that two-thirds of public elementary schools in Philadelphia don’t have playgrounds and rely on private funders to build them. While the Sweet July owner says there is room for the program’s expansion across the country, the goal is to prove their model works first.
“From there, the goal would be for other organizations and other people to take this model that we put together and proven works and implement it in their communities,” Ayesha said.
“When it comes to the kids, it really does take a village.”
She continues to say that her mindset on expansion starts with change.
“When it comes to expansion, the way we’ll do that is advocating for policy change,” Ayesha said. “That’s where we will see the most impact. We’ve started to do that and found it to be very beneficial.”