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From Super Bowl star to education champion

Happy Super Bowl weekend! In honor of the Big Game this Sunday, we bring you the inspiring true story of an NFL Hall of Famer, who made an even bigger impact in schools than he did on the gridiron.

Dubbed the original J.J. Watt, Alan Page entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988 after 14 seasons and 4 Super Bowl appearances for the Minnesota Vikings.

Page, who is also a practicing attorney and former justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, went on to found the hugely influential Page Education Foundation, which grants scholarships to minority students in Minnesota in return for community service and engagement in their hometowns.

Page was so committed to helping improve educational opportunities for students in Minnesota that he invited Willarene Beasley, then the principal of North Community High School in Minneapolis, to speak at his Hall of Fame induction.

In his own Hall of Fame speech, Page spoke out about an education system that he felt was failing students:

“Over the years, I have spent a lot of time talking with school children of all ages. And I have seen the cloud of resignation move across their eyes as they travel through school without making any real progress. They know they are slipping through the net into the huge underclass that our society seems willing to tolerate … We must educate our children. And if we do, I believe that will be enough.”

We’ve spent much of the last two weeks talking about how community engagement can elevate and improve schools through progressive initiatives, be it community schools, parent empowerment, teacher relations, school turnaround, and more.

Sadly, despite all of these efforts, Page’s indictment of our education system rings as true today as it did when he first spoke those words more than two decades ago.

As you gather with friends and family to watch Sunday’s game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, even if you’re just in it for the commercials, do Alan Page a solid and set aside a few minutes to think about the challenges our schoolchildren face—and what more you can do in your own communities to solve them.

For more on Page and his amazing journey, check out this video from the NFL Network.