Former Steelers safety Robert Golden starts school in Fresno

Former Steelers safety Robert Golden works with students at Golden Charter Academy in Fresno. (Sam Farmer / Los Angeles Times)

Lots of professional athletes grapple with the idea of what they will do when their playing careers end.

For Robert Golden, the answer was academic.

Golden, who spent six seasons as a safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring in 2018, founded a tuition-free charter school in his hometown to service the underprivileged children of the southwest Fresno neighborhoods where he was raised.

The school, Golden Charter Academy (GCA), opened in August and has 186 students ranging from transitional kindergarten through third grade. The plan is to add one grade level every year until it’s kindergarten through eighth.

The school’s colors? Black and gold, naturally, just like the Steelers.

“Coming from where I come from, growing up where I grew up, you often don’t see guys that make it all the way through high school, let alone get to the NFL,” said Golden, 31, who will be at SoFi Stadium on Sunday night to watch his former team play the Chargers. “So for me to be able to go to college, get my degree, make it to the NFL and then come back and open up a school, I feel like what more motivation could I provide for children?

“It lets them know that if I can do it, they can do it as well.”

This is no ordinary school. GCA partnered with the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and has made visits there a regular part of its curriculum. Although the school occupies the former campus of a Fresno Catholic school, Golden has audacious plans to build a state-of-the-art learning center next to the zoo. That process is in the fundraising mode.

“We wanted to develop a learning experience where kids don’t have to be tethered to a classroom,” Golden said. “A place where they can be outdoors and have these hands-on learning experiences.”

He walked away from the NFL in 2018, after he was released by the Steelers and briefly picked up by Kansas City. He had…


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