The first meeting of this year’s Super Bowl Social Justice Youth Leadership Program took place at Sofi Stadium (Courtesy photo)

To commemorate Super Bowl LVI, the organization RISE has partnered up with the NFL to host the Super Bowl Social Justice Youth Leadership Program.

In the program, students will create projects that will coincide with the theme “Empowering and Connecting Communities for Racial Justice” and will be on display during Super Bowl Week.

All the youth that are involved are student athletes who live in Los Angeles and have participated in RISE events before through the Rams or the Dodgers. The program kicked off in December and will last for 10 weeks and consist of five sessions.

During the sessions, the student athletes engage with sports professionals, executives, and college students. The first session of the Super Bowl Social Justice Youth Leadership Program took place at Sofi stadium where the student athletes met with members of RISE.

The student athletes learn about diversity, racial bias, perspective taking among other topics; they also discuss their project ideas and get advice. The goal of the program is to help youth recognize they can be leaders and take action in their community.

“It’s really to make sure that their mindset is one where they understand that they are a pivotal role in the community,” said RISE Chief Program Officer Andrew Mac Intosh Ph. D.. “All action that they take in this space is valid and important.”

At the culmination of the program, a small group of student athletes will participate in a panel discussion with community leaders.

RISE Chief program officer Andrew Mac Intosh Ph.D (Courtesy photo)

“They are sitting alongside law enforcement representatives, community representatives, sharing what they’ve learned, what they think their challenges are in the community, what they think the solutions and next steps are,” Mac Intosh said about past culminations. “I think it’s a great opportunity for them to showcase their talents, their interests, and their passions.”

In the past, student athletes who participated in the program submitted videos, poems, essays, and artwork for their projects. One student hosted a 5k march for peace in her community as a project submission. The culmination has also led to students earning job opportunities from executives in attendance.

Mac Intosh does this work because he did not have the platform nor the support to put his ideas into action when he was a teenager. As he got older, he noticed how sports was an effective tool for adults to communicate with youth.

“I’m always struck at the ability of certain adults to reach youth,” he said. “Sport, for me, it really showed up as an opportunity to reach youth, to have conversations, to have dialogue.”

Outside of the Super Bowl Social Justice Youth Program, RISE partners with pro sports franchises to host trainings for student athletes that teach the importance of tolerance and social justice. Mac Intosh noted how proud he is to be part of the organization.

“I feel like there are a lot of great people at RISE who dedicated themselves to this work and this space on this platform,” Mac Intosh said. “These are already difficult conversations to have but to have them and still have people feel inspired to take action and next steps and work even harder.”