Arik posing with children and giant check

With $250,000 Investment, Partners Launch Armstead Academy for Sacramento Youth

After a challenging year, residents of the Land Park Woods community in Sacramento found true cause for celebration on September 28, as around 150 children, caregivers, and supporters gathered to launch the Armstead Academy. Fueled by a $250,000 contribution to Mercy Housing California (MHC) from Mr. Arik Armstead, Defensive End for the San Francisco 49ers and founder of the Armstead Academic Project (AAP), the Armstead Academy will provide top-notch academic coaching and after-school programming for K-12 students who live in the Upper Land Park area of Sacramento. Participants can reside either at Land Park Woods, one of MHC’s 152 affordable communities, or in the neighboring Marina Vista and Alder Grove public housing communities.

“When I launched the Armstead Academic Project, our goal was to ensure that every student we served was equipped with resources to be successful at school,” said Mr. Armstead, who was born and raised in Sacramento and has focused much of his philanthropic work on empowering students in his hometown, where his family still resides. “With this partnership with Mercy Housing, we will be able to surround our youth with the year-round support that they deserve.” Armstead Academy participants will work with MHC staff and mentors to achieve academic success, develop leadership skills, enjoy college visits and career-exploration field trips, and take strides towards realizing healthy adulthoods.

The collaboration between AAP and MHC was first formalized in spring of 2020, when Ashlei Hurst, MHC Director of Program Innovation for Resident Services, connected with Mr. Armstead about the “digital divide” faced by many Land Park Woods students during school closures. “Arik gave me a call and said, ‘What do you need? How can I help kids keep learning during COVID-19?’” recalled Ashlei. After a 15-minute phone call, Mr. Armstead made the decision to donate $50,000 to provide Chromebooks and internet hot spots, which he personally distributed to families impacted by closures.

Following up on his 2020 gift, this generous new contribution empowers MHC to build on successful academic mentorship and career exploration programming developed over the last few years at Land Park Woods. In 2014, MHC partners conducted a needs assessment in the neighborhood and found that many residents were concerned by the lack of after-school programming and opportunities for youth aged 12-18. In partnership with Leataata Floyd Elementary School, California Middle School, and McClatchy High School, Ashlei and the resident services team at Land Park Woods designed a new slate of supportive, enriching programs for students of all ages. Because participants aren’t required to live at a MHC residence, these programs make a difference for the whole neighborhood, and help knit close social ties between Land Park Woods youth and the surrounding community.

After presenting the check to Mercy Housing California, Mr. Armstead stuck around the Land Park Woods courtyard to sign 49ers merchandise for community members, while some youngsters peeled off to play catch with team mascot “Sourdough Sam.” Before reporters and families dispersed, Ashlei took the microphone to share her hopes for Academy participants. “At Mercy Housing, we’re passionate about promoting and advancing racial equity and fighting for education equity,” said Ashlei. “We’re excited to partner with Arik Armstead to empower our youth of color and our low-income youth in the area.”