By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Kelvin Beachum has always been a man with a plan. That attitude was instilled in Beachum and his siblings by their parents, for whom low grades were unacceptable and hard work was expected.
The left tackle, who recently signed with the New York Jets after previously playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars, took his cues from his parents, and has always made sure that every step he has taken, in any area, had the security of a backup plan; and usually more than one.
Beachum, grew up in small Mexia, Texas (pronounced MEH-ha), approximately 90 miles from Dallas, where his father owns what is now one of the largest automotive businesses in the area. But the early years were a struggle and the business was a family affair, His grandfather although blind for a good part of his life, continues to work on cars and Beachum started at a young age. His favorite job – working on transmissions.
Although he became accomplished in his business, Beachum’s father dropped out of school in the eighth grade to go to work. He and his wife insisted that all his children attend college, but made it clear the only way they would be able to go would be to earn scholarships. They all did.
“They made sure we got our academics taken care of,” Beachum said. "My dad was adamant that you have to go farther than I did. You have to be a positive contributor to the global economy. We went to church almost every day and it’s made us who we are. I was also very serious about my education.”
Beachum went off to SMU in Dallas where not only was he a four-year starter on the football team, but also earned a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in sports management, followed by a master’s degree in organizational dynamics – all before he was drafted by the Steelers in 2012. It was all part of the plan to ensure his future beyond football.
Along the way, Beachum became intrigued by STEM – Science, Technology, Education and Math – an increasingly popular focus in schools, but not always in underserved communities. He looked at where he came from and had a lightbulb moment, his family’s business is all about STEM. Although as Beachum said with a laugh, “If I told my father and grandfather that they do STEM every day, they’d look at me like I was crazy.”
He decided that he was going to get involved and find a way to reach out to underserved communities to educate and inform young people about the importance of, and opportunities in, STEM. He created a mission statement for his efforts:
To provide access and educational programming to minority students in STEM fields and increase the flow of underrepresented minorities into STEM-centric careers.
To that end, Beachum has now partnered will several corporations, including Chevron, General Electric, Quest Diagnostics and American Airlines, and brings children to their various locations to provide hands-on experiences to introduce them to potential career paths.
“I try to provide, first and foremost, the awareness, access and exposure and then hopefully the opportunity to go to college,” Beachum said. “At least these kids know I can connect them to some of these industries and I stay in contact with them.”
In 2016, Beachum added a new element, launching a STEAM initiative – Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Math. Dubbed Kelvin Konnects, he has embarked on many efforts, including taking students from the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas, and introduced them to industry leaders and offered them an opportunity to immerse themselves in the STEAM world.
Beachum has also developed numerous other partnerships and programs, all serving the same goal to increase awareness of STEM-related jobs to children who might otherwise be unaware of their existence and of the possibilities they have to attain those jobs.
Beachum moves seamlessly between the NFL environment and the non-NFL environment, seeing importance in both.
“You have to use every resource the NFL has to offer,” Beachum said. “I try to do stuff that’s unconventional. When I was in Australia I met with some businessmen. Why? Because they have no ties to the NFL. I like to think outside the box. For me its building relationships, and I find building relationships out of the NFL and out of football has done me a lot of good. I can pull from a lot of different networks that I’ve intertwined.”
Beachum’s wife, Jessica, recently completed her nursing degree and their two-year-old daughter, Kalena, is being introduced early to the world of STEM.
“We’re a STEM-based family,” Beachum said proudly.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.