Former Baltimore Raven helping students and teachers with online STEM lessons

When John Urschel announced two years ago that he was retiring from the Baltimore Ravens to pursue a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it caught many by surprise. Urschel was just 26 and hadn’t yet carved out the reputation linebackers in the league usually do: the pursuit of tackling quarterbacks. Instead, he

pursued science.

Now, Urschel is helping to provide free lessons in STEM via YouTube as part of the recently announced National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). The initiative is a set of free video lessons in math, science and English to help educators as they continue to adjust to online teaching.

"While teachers and students continue to adjust to online learning, we knew we could help by providing high-quality, ready-to-use lessons,” NMSI CEO Bernard Harris said in a statement.

Harris noted that NMSI’s mission is to increase access and achievement in rigorous STEM education for all students.

“I'm grateful to our outstanding trainers and to John Urschel for helping us do this small part for our country's education system,” Harris stated.

Urschel said he provided a video for high school students because he wants to inspire more students to understand and appreciate math.

"Math is foundational to everything in our lives, and I'm happy to do what I can to show young people that they can be successful in it," said Urschel, who has also authored the book, "Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football."

“I'm also happy to provide help to teachers and to families struggling to deliver online education. It's a challenging time, but we'll get through it together,” he said.

Urschel is in his fifth year as a doctoral student at MIT. He was a standout offensive lineman at Penn State University and earned the William V. Campbell Trophy for academic and athletic success and community service. The Ravens drafted Urschel in 2014 and he retired in 2017 to focus on his doctoral work.

In addition to Urschel, the NMSI's video lessons come from teachers across the country each of whom has a record of successfully preparing students for college. Those and hundreds of other teachers help the NMSI deliver two of the non-profit's primary programs.

The Laying the Foundation program helps grades three to 12 teachers prepare students for rigorous high school courses, such as those under the College Board's Advanced Placement program, officials noted in the release.

The flagship College Readiness Program supports AP teachers and students and helps school systems reform how they manage access to advanced courses.

In addition to LTF and CRP, the NMSI supports students of military members through its Military Families Mission.

It also increases access to computer science education in grades K-12 and helps prepare preservice STEM teachers through a partnership with the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

"The heart of our efforts is dedicated to school districts and systems, teachers and students who are supported by our programs," Harris said. "At the same time, we felt called to help more teachers, students and families, and we're happy to provide these free lessons."