Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helps teach STEM skills to black and Latin American students
NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a lot more on his mind these days than the sport.
For more than a decade, he has focused on introducing underserved students to a STEM education consisting of science, technology, engineering, and math. Blacks and Latinos are underrepresented in the area where workers tend to earn more than non-STEM workers with a similar level of education.
The Covid pandemic has made his mission even more urgent. Color students see the greatest learning loss when school closes, a report from McKinsey & Company found in December. This leads to a blow to future profitability.
“It’s a social justice issue. Giving children a better idea of where to go with their education,” said Abdul-Jabbar.
The basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with students in his Skyhook Camp introduces underserved children to a STEM education
When the pandemic broke out, the foundation adapted and used eco vans to take the camp to individual recreation centers and playgrounds while staying socially distant.
“We try to give them their first experiences with science and let them know that it is nothing exotic. It just takes application and they can learn a lot,” said the six-time national basketball champion.
“It was very enjoyable for me to see the lights on with the children as they began to see what is possible and where to go with this information.”
However, there are still some obstacles in Abdul-Jabbar’s path, namely the ability to reach more children. There is currently a six year waiting list to enter Skyhook Camp. There is also a lack of WiFi access and computer equipment for many.
It was very enjoyable for me to see the lights on with the children as they began to see what was possible.
NBA legend and founder of the Skyhook Foundation
For Anthony Chan, the organization’s treasurer and former chief economist at JP Morgan Chase, this means doing everything possible to meet these needs. The foundation has partnered with companies including the Panasonic Foundation, which recently received the Global Business Alliance’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award for its collaboration with Skyhook.
“Kareem and I both grew up on housing projects,” said Chan, who is Hispanic.
“I’ve seen all of the challenges there and how easy it was to basically fall into the cracks.”
Besides the lack of opportunity, there is the problem of understanding money issues, he added.
“If you give them financial literacy, this income inequality debate that we are talking about today will go instantly faster than Houdini can make it go away,” Chan said.
Abdul-Jabbar hopes to look back on what he’s done with his life and remember the children he helps, rather than “looking at the sparkle of jewels or gilding to celebrate something I do before a long time ago, “he said once after auctioning off his basketball memorabilia to fund the foundation.
“I would see my legacy as a success if the children we want to reach get jobs as engineers, scientists and inventors,” he said.
“That will make me feel good.”
TURN ON: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Chan are on CNBC’s “Mid-term report“Friday at 12 p.m. ET.
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Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.