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February 7, 2022

Even with a Super Bowl appearance, the greatest impact the Los Angeles Rams have had this season might be found in the halls of MaCES High School in Southern California.

Select students and coaches from the MaCES football team took part in this year's RISE with the Rams program - a season-long effort designed to harness the unifying power of sports and build relationships between local high school football teams with a cross-section of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to break down barriers and build leadership and cultural competency skills for student-athletes, coaches and LAPD officers.

“This program opened their eyes,” said MaCES varsity football coach Cisco Saldana about his student-athletes. “[What they learned] will stick with them… and we're going to continue these conversations.”

As a final project, MaCES students and coaches created a video, pledging to be leaders in their school for anti-racism and inclusion:

Running for the fourth consecutive season, this year's RISE with the Rams program included monthly touchpoints for varsity football teams from Baldwin Park High School, Glendale High School, MaCES, Rolling Hills Prep High School and Western High School.

The program kicked off with a two-day event in August 2021 at the Rams Training Camp at UC Irvine where student-athletes discussed understanding identities, perspective taking and the importance of diversity, as well as participated in hands-on activities around trust and community building. In virtual engagements throughout the season, participants also covered topics such as bias and privilege, and explored ways to implement their learnings to positively impact their communities.

At the end of the season-long program, each team was tasked with producing creative projects highlighting key learnings and how they plan to advance values of racial equity and inclusion in their communities going forward. See more what students and coaches created together for their final projects:

In December 2021, Saldana and coaches Jacob Ochoa of Glendale and Daniel Davidson of Western joined Rams defensive backs JuJu Hughes and Robert Rochell for a conversation with RISE's Dr. Collin Williams Jr., on Champions of Change: The RISE Podcast, to discuss the importance of using sport to address racism and empower young athletes to be leaders for racial justice and inclusion in their communities.

“Racism and social injustices, it's a big topic that needs to be discussed and it's an uncomfortable conversation that needs to be had more often,” said Los Angeles Rams Safety JuJu Hughes. “With our platform [as NFL players], it eases that conversation. Everyone loves us for sports, but we get them to listen when we talk about things of this nature.”

Hughes, Rochell and Rams teammate David Edwards, along with Rams football personnel such as Director of Football Affairs Jacques McClendon, all wore RISE cleats and shoes as part of the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats initiative during the team's home game on Dec. 5. Their custom-designed footwear includes messages such as “Against Hate” and “End Racism” to support RISE's mission of ending racial discrimination, championing social justice and improving race relations.

“This is a huge topic in this day and age, and sometimes you just need bigger voices to push and support things, and I stand behind what RISE stands for, because you see it day in and day out with racism and social injustice and problems in the communities” said Rochell, who added his friends and family have experienced racism and been victims of discriminatory policing in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana.

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