LOS ANGELES — As the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, Anthony Lynn is used to winning football games on the field.
But Lynn is also racking up points outside the lines of a football field.
Education has always been important to Lynn, a 27-year football veteran who at the age of 49 re-enrolled in school, determined to obtain his bachelor’s degree.
Lynn’s association with education resurfaced once again three years ago when a friend, Ravi Reddy, a former linebacker for the University of Texas, told Lynn that there was a critical need to build schools in Africa.
Reddy, who had founded a nonprofit organization called Privilege 2 Serve, told Lynn of his dream of building a school in Tanzania and asked for his help to raise $350,000.
Lynn and his wife, Stacey Bell, an anchor for NBC New York, agreed to help. The couple and their two children traveled to Tanzania last June to open the school in Lanjani, a rural Maasai village in East Africa that is home to 8,500 people. Only 10 people in the population had received a formal education.
The Lanjani elder they met there explained that there are 120 tribes in Tanzania, but the Maasai is the last tribe to have educated people. He said many of the young people could not pursue an education because they had to herd goats and cattle to support their families, a practice that has existed for centuries.
He added that the life of the nomadic herders is quickly disappearing and members of the tribe must adapt and obtain an education if they are to survive.
Lynn said he was haunted by the young herders who could not pursue an education. He even visited several Maasai homes to try to persuade parents to allow their children to enroll in school.
Another obstacle included navigating a time for the children to travel to school to avoid lion-feeding hours.
“It was sad, because where do your hopes and dreams come from if you don’t have that?” Lynn said. “How do you know if you like science until you take a science class? These kids were getting pushed into the workforce as early as possible, growing up without education at all.”
Once the school was built, Lynn, his family and Reddy drove hours into the bush to see the new school. The one-story kindergarten to third grade school with grey walls and a red roof was built for 300 children through Anthony’s Lynn Family Foundation in partnership with Privilege 2 Serve. Besides receiving an education, the students enrolled also receive two meals rich in protein a day.
It was the first opportunity to go to school for many of the children and it turned into a joyful occasion, with dozens of children crowding into the school.
“Then they started singing a song of gratitude,” Lynn told ESPN.
As he toured the classroom full of eager faces, Lynn paused to give the students words of encouragement.
“You are very strong and I have no doubt that someone who goes to this school will not only have an impact on Tanzania, but the world,” he told them.
“Just being in the classroom with the kids was the best part of the trip,” Lynn said. “These kids are so appreciative and positive. Their circumstances are not all that great, but they are finding ways to thrive.”
“You know, you go somewhere, and you expect to help people and have an impact, and they end up having an impact on you,” he said. “Their resiliency, their toughness, their attitude, their smiles. You see it and experience it, and it makes you appreciate what you really have.”
The Lynns plan to expand the school to add a middle school and high school.
“We are not done,” Lynn said.
The coach said the opportunity to help young people was too powerful to pass up.
“There are so many people who have invested in me and not just in football,” he said. “That’s why I always try to pay it forward in a way that extends beyond the game.”
“You never know if you can cure cancer until you take a science class, a biology class. Maybe a great writer, but you never know until you take an English class.” Lynn explained on the video.
Lynn said his foundation is always about education, and that’s why the project is important. And he adds that the school ended up benefitting him as much as it did the students, and he credits the project for making him a better husband and father.
By Shirley Hawkins