Education All-Star Curtis Granderson
This NY Yankee is a passionate supporter of public schools.
by Lance Fuller
On the baseball field, Curtis Granderson is known as an all-star center fielder for the New York Yankees.
Off the field, he’s known as the nicest guy in baseball and a passionate supporter of public education.
Since its inception in 2007, Granderson’s charity, the Grand Kids Foundation, has donated more than $80,000 in grants, funding, and supplies to inner city youth, public schools, and athletic programs throughout Michigan, Chicago, and New York City. The charity’s grant program is expanding to assist schools nationwide with art projects, field trips, supplies, and language and education-based computer software.
One of only a handful of current players and coaches in Major League Baseball (MLB) with a four-year college degree, Granderson has been recognized numerous times by the MLB for his work within the community, highlighted by the 2009 Marvin Miller Man of the Year award that recognizes his off the field service.
The Grand Kids Foundation is also partnering with NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign to lend support to struggling schools. NEA Today Express interviewed Granderson about his charity work.
With so many charitable causes to become involved with, why did you decide to focus on education?
Granderson: The main reason was because of my parents, who are retired public school teachers in Chicago. My sister is also a professor at Jackson State University teaching English. I was surrounded by education growing up and it’s something that’s always been important to me.
When I began thinking about different charities that I was going to become involved with or any foundation I would put my name next to, I knew it was going to be something that I was passionate about, and my passion is education.
Tell us more about The Grand Kids Foundation. What do you hope to accomplish with it?
Photo ©New York Yankees
Granderson: We want to show the importance of education in all aspects, that no matter what you want to do, you should have the opportunity to learn it.
Through the charity, we raise money to fund things like grants, science projects, and language software to schools all over the country.
I noticed (when I started my baseball career in 2004 in Detroit) that the graduation rates were declining and so was literacy. I saw the situation as a perfect fit for my charity to step in and help children.
Why is it important that teachers, parents, and organizations like yours collaborate in our nation’s struggling schools to help kids achieve?
Granderson: Everyone needs to see that a lot of the problems we have can be solved through education. It’s harder for young people to get jobs when they aren’t educated. When you get the communities, parents, and teachers involved in helping kids achieve, there’s a direct correlation between success and education and things like our economy can improve with better educated people.
How important is awareness of childhood obesity, and what are you doing to help with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign?
Granderson: With Let’s Move!, we want to show the importance and benefits of being active.
There are many boys and girls who do not get proper nutrition and it affects their attention span and ability to learn when they’re in class for 50 minutes up to six times a day. It’s important that we get kids active in school and fed right because it helps with their learning and it’s also what’s best for their health.
Parents want their kids to live longer than them and achieve bigger and better things, and unfortunately diseases like diabetes that used to affect older adults are now hitting kids.
Kids need to find a way to stay active and involved, from little things like walking around a park to playing sports, as long as they find something that they like and works for them.
Had baseball not worked out for you, what would you have done? Would you have pursued a career in education? What do you see yourself doing after your baseball career ends?
Granderson: I’ve thought about the administration-compliance side of college athletics in working with student athletes to maintain their eligibility. At the University of Chicago, a man named Danny Wells helped me while I played baseball in college.
It’s the worst to see an athlete’s hard work on the playing field go to waste because of some technicality such as late registration, missing credits, etc.
I’ve thought about getting a Master’s degree to work within NCAA administration, but there’s also the possibility of broadcasting, and I’m involved with different business ventures.
With a Master’s, I would be certified to teach and that’s always a possibility, but right now, I’m focused on my charity and baseball career, so I’ll continue to stay involved in education.