Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Shoots for Education

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Athletes are more than just role models on the big screen; in California one NBA all-star is also helping students succeed in the classroom.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer will now be helping students raise their test scores in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as he has been named California’s After-School STEM Ambassador by state superintendent of public instruction Tom Torlakson.

Abdul-Jabbar is invested in the learning and advancement of the youth in this country. He has been actively promoting STEM before the official announcement of his new position. He started the Skyhook Foundation in 2009 that promotes the importance of STEM education and STEM-related careers.

“If America is to maintain our high standard of living, we must continue to innovate,” said Abdul-Jabbar in a statement. “We are competing with nations many times our size, and STEM learning represents the engines of innovation. With these engines, we can lead the world, because knowledge is real power.”

Abdul-Jabbar is not unfamiliar with the ambassador role, in January 2012, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appointed him as a U.S. Global Cultural Ambassador. In that role, which will commence at the end of the year, he travels throughout the country to discuss the importance of education and cultural tolerance.

He looks to extend his influence on children — not necessarily to become a professional athlete, like himself, but to receive an education that will make a child successful, no matter what their dream may be.

Abdul-Jabbar pointed out that while there are only 450 NBA jobs available at any one time (30 teams with 15 players on each, not counting the Developmental League), there are “thousands upon thousands of engineering jobs” available.

In his role as the California After-School Ambassador, Abdul-Jabbar will make appearances at after-school programs around the state over the next year to promote STEM education.

His role is especially important in California, as a November 2011 report from WestEd found that a majority of elementary students in the state were not being exposed to high-quality science instruction, according to Erik Robelen from Curriculum Matters.