When the NFL season kicks off this fall, the Los Angeles Chargers will have help from over two dozen students from the Inglewood Unified School District during their home games. The program is the latest initiative rolled out by the Chargers Impact Fund aimed at providing unique opportunities to the citizens of Los Angeles and surrounding communities.
Although the new program called Bolt Academy bears the name of the Chargers’ logo, it is a partnership with the Brotherhood Crusade. Based in South Los Angeles, the Brotherhood Crusade has spent the last 50 years creating programs and opportunities for the youth of the city.
“For 53 years, the Brotherhood Crusade has been a beacon in the community,” said instructor Brian Weaver. “With this program, we’re going to open the door to ensure young people have the opportunity to get in and enjoy these trips. But we’re also going to make sure that they are well prepared to walk through that door.”
Starting this upcoming season, 25 students from City Honors College Prep, Inglewood, and Morningside High School will be chosen for a six-month leadership and career-building internship which includes the opportunity to work at SoFi Stadium during Chargers home games.
In a statement released by the ballclub in March, Chargers President of Business Operations A.G. Spanos, who also oversees the Chargers Impact Fund, touted the startup program as a building block partnership between the team and the Inglewood community.
“Bolt Academy has been more than a year in the making, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome our first class of students to the program,” Spanos said. “Supporting youth has been a cornerstone of Chargers community outreach for decades, and Bolt Academy continues our organization’s commitment to empowering youth through education.
“This innovative after-school program is another way we can help create opportunity by providing students the necessary tools to succeed,” Spanos continued. “It goes without saying that we could not have accomplished this without our tremendous partners, and I would like to specifically thank SoFi and Brotherhood Crusade for their dedication to making the vision for Bolt Academy a reality. I know all of us can’t wait to see this inaugural class in action at SoFi Stadium this coming season.”
The 2021-2022 season will mark the Chargers’ second season in their new stadium. Through the Chargers Impact Fund, which focuses on youth empowerment, supporting families, animal welfare, and emergency response, the organization expects to continue to show its commitment to do work both on the field and in the surrounding communities.
Since 2016, the residents of Inglewood have watched the SoFi Stadium slowly but surely rise from dirt mounds to a 70,000-seat football arena. On their early morning drives to work or bus rides to the grocery store, they’ve seen the community they’ve lived in for most of their lives change in an entertainment metropolis that will soon rival Downtown’s LA Live.
While the new stadium brings new jobs and revenue into Inglewood, it has also helped contribute to the closing or moving of restaurants and businesses that have called Inglewood homes for years.
This new internship program for Inglewood’s high school students is a great chance to right some of the unintentional wrongs that were a result of building a multi-billion stadium in an intercity community.
In an interview with CBS, the Chargers’ Director of Community Partnerships Heather Birdsall expressed the Chargers felt it very important to give back to the community in a unique way. Birdsall, who was on hand for the launch of Bolt Academy, said the Chargers wanted to let the community know this program is just the beginning of many things planned for the city of Inglewood.
“So many residents in Inglewood have watched this stadium being built over years so this is an opportunity to bring the community into the stadium and have them be a part of that experience. So, it’s not something happening in their community, but it is a part of the community.” Birdsall said.
With Covid-19 still shaping and changing the way business is usually handled, students chosen for Bolt Academy were unable to be at SoFi Stadium for the launch of the program. Instead, the 25 chosen students met on a live stream video with the Chargers head coach Brandon Staley.
As the aspects of what the program would entail were discussed, the students also received a pleasant surprise. Not only was every student enrolled in Bolt Academy given the internship of a lifetime, but they also received a Microsoft Surface. Gasps and squeals could be heard as Staley smiled at the gleeful students.
For decades, afterschool programs have been the backbone of inner-city communities. It’s a well-known fact, cities like Inglewood are primarily made up of working-class families who tend to work further from home. Schools within these communities are typically underfunded and overextended.
Their students are rarely afforded the same prospects as students from more affluent neighborhoods. With this program Bolt Academy aims to level the playing field for high school students of Inglewood.
Inglewood Unified School District’s Superintendent Dr. Erika Torres is excited the students in her care have the chance to not only learn career and leadership skills but also to be associated with an NFL team.
“This is a wonderful experience for our students, and they deserve it,” Torres said. “They are excited to participate in this Bolt Academy. They feel very fortunate that the Chargers, SoFi Stadium, and Brotherhood Crusade are coming together to provide them with these innovative opportunities.”
Whitney Houston once sang children are the future and it looks like the Chargers are singing the same tune. While new, the Bolt Academy is already proving they plan to be an impactful member of the South Los Angeles community.
Featured Image: Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) running through the Denver Broncos defense on Dec. 27, 2020. The Chargers defeated the Broncos, 19-16, at SoFi Stadium. Photo credit: Sammy Saludo/News4usonline