Malik Christian is both a star student and star athlete at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. But there was a time in his life when sports came first and grades were a distant second.
“I wanted to do enough in school for me to play (football),” Christian said. “I didn’t think ‘Ok, I have to be as successful in the classroom as I am on the field.'”
His attitude toward the classroom after he tried out for Shutdown Academy’s football team: “I went up there thinking I was only going to be playing football thinking it was just one game. When I left, I left with a team full of supporters.”
That’s exactly how the program’s founder and former NFL player Keion Carpenter gets kids into Shutdown Academy– through their love of sports.
“Once they get into our presence, we are able to teach them about life and the importance of education,” Carpenter said.
In addition to the sports teams and tutoring services offered by Shutdown Academy, the program also focuses on mentoring children. They partner with a group “For My Kidz” to provide mentoring services to students at Frederick Elementary School in Baltimore.
“A lot of them just want to be loved and appreciated, and a lot of them just want to have that structure,” Carpenter said.
Christine Thomas, a realtor who has worked with Shutdown Academy since it started, says what sets this program apart from others is that they look at the whole child and work to improve all aspects of their lives.
“It’s teaching core values of honor, character, integrity and respect, and instilling in them a sense of community,” Thomas said.
Carpenter echoed Thomas’ sentiments about paying it forward. “We want them to do what we did for them because then the cycle never,” he said.
Christian wants to continue that cycle. He plans on going to college, perhaps becoming an NFL agent, and hopes to one day give back to his high school. Christian knows to accomplish all that, he must perform as well in school as he does on the football field.
“I have to make sure I’m doing well enough on my own, I’m doing my part to give back,” he said.