In high school, Harold Pearson was passionate about sports and knew he wanted to go to college. The problem was that he didn’t receive any support from his high school counselor. He was never provided the information he needed to apply for and succeed in college.
After graduating from high school, Harold went on to attend a two-year college and sought help from his college counselor. Unfortunately, the first counselor Harold met with gave him advice that would have pushed him backward in his educational path instead of moving him forward.
Harold decided he had to take it upon himself to achieve his goals. He created his own course schedule and found a new counselor who worked with Harold to get him on track to transfer to a four-year university. Harold went on to accept a football scholarship and graduate from the University of California, Berkeley.
Brent Johnson is an Oakland native whose inspiration came from his experiences in college and from some of his teammates. He felt it was unfair that many didn’t get the opportunity to pursue a college education even though they were talented and capable.
Brent is a firm believer in the saying “each one teach one” and SPAAT was created as a way to bridge the gap that was preventing student-athletes from his home town from progressing their academic journey.
Russell Crew comes from a family of educators. He worked for a nonprofit program inside Oakland Public Schools and at Santa Fe Elementary School as a Crisis Intervention Specialist. In the latter role, he worked with students and provided them the skill-set and coping mechanisms to help them progress.
Through his experiences he felt compelled to create something different, with a different framework and a different set of intentions.
High school and college classmates Harold Pearson, Russell Crew and Brent Johnson talked about their shared struggles in education and co-founded SPAAT in 2003. They knew there were other student-athletes who weren’t receiving the support and guidance they needed to be successful in their adult lives.
Harold, Russell, and Brent spent five years researching and testing models to figure out how they could best meet the needs of the youth at Oakland Technical High School and McClymonds High School. In 2008, Harold took a huge leap of faith by quitting corporate America and dedicating all of his time to becoming SPAAT’s founding executive director.
Since 2008, SPAAT has grown from a program of 10 students and a $6,000 annual budget to a successful organization that serves over 600 students annually. The organization has developed incredibly successful educational models for engaging and encouraging students to pursue their interests so they can graduate from college and lead successful lives with fulfilling careers.
SPAAT Up For Life
SPAAT relates to a ‘spat’, the protective sleeve or tape that fits over cleat shoes worn on artificial turf fields. It supports the ankle, allowing the player better control over their body movement and athletic performance. Putting on spats is part of the player’s ritual when getting ready to play a game.
Like the on-field spat, SPAAT provides student-athletes with the support they need to play the game of life.