The LA84 Foundation's SAMbassadors, or Student Athletes in Motion, serve as a youth advisory board and offer guidance about grants and programs. (Photo courtesy of the LA84 Foundation)
Orange County School of the Arts

How student athletes promote ‘play equity’ through the LA84 Foundation’s SAMbassador program

The LA84 Foundation’s Student Athletes in Motion ambassador program, known as SAMbassadors, allows youth athletes to get involved in the foundation’s “play equity” initiative. 

Middle to high schoolers involved on this student advisory board offer support on the grants and programs funded by the LA84 Foundation. 

Seventeen-year-old Angelica Taylor has been a SAMbassador for three years. The rising senior at St. Mary’s Academy plays soccer and volleyball. (Photo courtesy of the LA84 Foundation)

When Renata Simril, the president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation, first joined the organization, she said she noticed that all of their staff was older, and founded the SAMbassador program in late 2016 to include more youth perspective.

“I looked around … and I said, ‘We’re the youth sports organization helping to provide opportunities for kids. Maybe it would be a good thing to ask kids what they think.’ And so we created this youth council,” Simril said. 

LA84 reaches out to student athletes from the various programs that they had helped in the past in order to find students to be on the board. Some of their programs are Beyond the Bell, Southern California Tennis Association and Pure Game. 

Angelica Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at St. Mary’s Academy, has been a SAMbassador for about three years. Taylor was selected from her soccer and volleyball programs. 

“I wanted to give back to my community and make sure other kids in my area had the same opportunities as I did,” Taylor said. 

SAMbassadors represent the Foundation at various events such as youth panels, and visits to Dodger Stadium where they dress up in LA84 gear and as their mascot Sam the Eagle.

“We just try to let people know who we are,” Taylor said. “They [LA84] let youth talk to the professionals.” 

LA84 also provides internship opportunities, which Taylor said are typically given to those who are seniors. They connect their interns with someone who is involved in LA84 and has a link to the student’s interests. 

Students also look at grant proposals and decide which programs they believe most deserve a grant. 

While reviewing grant proposals, the SAMbassadors identify what they call RIO — reach, impact and opportunity. This acronym weighs into their decision for who receives the grant, Taylor said.

“We look at the impact it would have on those people,” Taylor said. “We especially try to give everyone an equal opportunity, like people with special needs, or girls.” 

Taylor said along with who will be impacted, they also look at what equipment and coaches the program will need. 

“While the youth sports industry is a $17 billion industry, millions upon millions of kids and their families can’t afford the program fees and the equipment,” Simril said. “There’s a gap that hides in plain sight that not all kids have equal access to sports.” 

By offering grants to sports programs, LA84 works to fill that gap. 

In order to be a SAMbassador, students are expected to maintain good grades in school, to be involved in their sports program and to make time to complete their work. 

Taylor said the most important thing for a SAMbassador to do was to keep an open mind and to help their communities as much as possible. 

To give students the room to maintain their expectations, Taylor said they try to have the students meet on Sunday evenings or work with students’ schedules to find a time that works for most. They try to meet at the LA84 headquarters once every three months, Taylor said. 

“We work together as a group to put out ideas and share our opinions,” she said. “We work together to move things along and get the best idea forward.” 

All the students are given an equal chance to voice their opinions. 

“I find that some of the best ideas that we have and some of the greatest impact have come through the voices of the youth,” Simril said. 

Taylor believes that the SAMbassador program allows LA84 to be more connected to their sports programs. She said that as youths, they understand what other young people would want and be open to do. 

SAMbassadors also able to focus on their individual communities, which Taylor said they know best. 

“It lets people know that there’s other people in their community that work for them and try to get them opportunities,” Taylor said.


This story was produced through the HS Insider summer internship program which is supported by funding from LA84 Foundation.