Signing day: Samohi soccer goalkeeper Cassidy Van Cott has signed to play at Regis College. Courtesy photo.

Top student athletes from Santa Monica and Malibu’s public schools could soon be receiving a helping hand as they navigate the prospect of competing at the collegiate level.

Beginning in 2021, the NCAA amended its rules to allow individual student athletes “the opportunity to benefit from their name, image and likeness,” as they compete for colleges and universities, according to an article published by the NCAA in June of that year. Previously, college athletes had been barred from accepting payments, despite many students generating huge sums of money for their respective schools thanks to sponsorships and marketing materials.

On top of navigating new, more intense practices and training schedules, tougher classes, being away from home and living in dorms or apartments, and all that comes with being a college athlete, NCAA players may now also be negotiating sponsorship deals, social media campaigns, personal branding, and financial management.

That’s where the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) comes in. During the Thursday, Feb. 17, SMMUSD Board of Education meeting, School District leaders will consider a program that will see student athletes partner with a foundation called Athletes to Entrepreneurs, or A2E.

“The mission of the A2E Foundation — a non-profit, non-business affiliated organization focused solely on the total development of the high school athlete — is to empower young athletes by preparing them for the new world of college athletics,” according to a staff report prepared for the Thursday meeting. “Working with school administrators, athletic directors, parents, and the students themselves, A2E will prepare student-athletes to understand and then develop their unique opportunity.”

The contract, at no cost to the District, involves a six-week period of short presentations and interactive lessons designed to educate student athletes on their rights and their opportunities as they move on toward collegiate athletics.

A2E is funded through municipal, state and federal grants, according to the SMMUSD report, meaning there is no cost to the School District and no out-of-pocket expenses for athletes or their families.

If accepted, the District’s partnership with A2E would carry through to June 30, 2023, and be considered for annual renewal beginning at that time.

So far in 2022, two SMMUSD senior have signed on to play college athletics. Samohi soccer goalkeeper Cassidy Van Cott signed to play at Regis College, a private Roman Catholic university in Massachusetts. Samohi swimmer Annalena Siering signed with UCSD swim and dive, a D1 program.

SMMUSD Spokesperson Gail Pinsker said she expected more student athletes from Samohi and Malibu High School to sign on to play NCAA sports in coming months.

The SMMUSD School Board meeting begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17, and can be attended via Zoom (meeting ID: 827 7467 6308 ; passcode: 009651 ; call-in number: 669.900.6833).

*This story was corrected to indicate Samohi student Annalena Siering signed to play in the NCAA.

emily@smdp.com