The Ginn Academy, founded in 2007 by Ted Ginn, Sr., is the only all-male public high school in Ohio. Come in and see what goes on inside the hearts and minds of 655 E. 162nd Street each day. Let us tell you our stories. Photos and text not to be used without permission.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Show Up

Antwan is one of our recent graduates -- a kind, caring, loving young man with a bright, sincere smile. If you've ever seen a Glenville High School football game, you've probably heard his name or noticed his fierce play on the field. Number 54 had offers from many Division I schools. He took his time, carefully weighed his options, and finally decided that Ohio University and its football coaching staff were the best fit for him.

Right now, today, Antwan is already winning. He's a high school graduate with the academic and athletic strength to take his life to the next level. This week in mid-June he will leave the only city he knows for Southern Ohio and start the next chapter of a life that he never expected just a few years ago. "I never thought I'd have this life. Thought I'd be a statistic. I feel awesome!" he says quietly but with pure conviction. 

It's difficult for a kid to imagine being in this sort of position when the past has been filled with such immensely trying times. The youngest of five children, it's taken the proverbial village to raise Antwan as circumstances have led to challenges that many can't fathom. The disadvantages that's he's endured have only driven him to keep pushing through difficulties that some might find insurmountable. There have been times when the family did not know where their next meal would come from and Antwan has felt more hunger pains than anyone should. He laughs when recalling the good cooking of an older sister who stepped in when she was needed. "I had to be careful about my weight. She fed me every day; I was getting too heavy."

Antwan learned mightily from mistakes made by his brother, whose background now leads to struggles to find the work that would pay for the classes he wants to attend at Cuyahoga Community College. A factor in Antwan's desire to make a better life for himself is to then have the means to help his family. He is already helping. His brother, in return, is inspired by Antwan's achievements and is trying hard to reform his own life.

It was Antwan's brother that led Coach Ginn to him when Antwan was in 6th grade. They met when Coach visited the family's home after Antwan's brother got into some trouble with the Glenville quarterback. "I had these pants hanging down and braids in my hair," Antwan recalls. The two made a connection then that would intensify when Antwan joined the Glenville HS football team a few years later.

Pieces were falling into place with his move in 10th grade to The Ginn Academy, but part of Antwan's turnaround and successes over the past three years can be attributed to the unique mentoring relationship he has with Cleveland financial consultant and huge football fan, Jerry Crutchley, a man who knows the value to a young man of having a consistent male presence. "My dad was the best mentor I can think of. He had a 9th grade education, but he taught me so much that you just don't learn academically. He is my hero," Jerry says. 

Jerry's close friend and fellow Glenville supporter, attorney Bob Hendrix, showed him the rewards of mentoring through his own relationship with one of last year's GA graduates. With four of his own children all growing up and leaving the nest and having proven himself in his line of work, Jerry felt the need to give back to his community. He contacted Coach Ginn and his assistant, Hazel Parker, who evaluated students' needs and decided that Antwan could be the perfect match. Mrs. Parker explains, "I remember that first meeting between the two. I took Jerry over to the field after football practice and Antwan knew that someone was coming to meet him. He walked across the field and saw Jerry and that big, bright smile just came over his face. They shook hands and it was just like a union was made; it was meant to be." 

The two have similar laid-back personalities and find that their time together doesn't need an agenda or even constant chatter. New foods (i.e. sushi) are tried and book stores are visited. They get together once or twice each week for lunch and dinner out or with Jerry's family -- and lots of talk. "Knowledge Talks," Antwan calls them. "It's ridiculous how much I've learned from him. We talk about why people do things and about how my choices lead to either more or less control in my life, and then how there are consequences for every choice," he says. Jerry explains further, "Antwan has this opportunity to attend Ohio University because of choices he's made. I want him to see that he has options. He doesn't have to just take whatever is given to him; he can make choices and take control of his life. And it's been really nice to see him take that control."

Jerry has provided not only knowledge and an example, but an escape for Antwan. "If I have problems or want to be away from everything or just to have fun, I can always call him. We'll chill or talk or whatever," he says. Jerry looks forward to Antwan having regular medical care and a committed supply of trainers to look after his health and well-being at school. The relationship doesn't end here now that it's established. "I'm just so excited to be a part of this program and these kids' lives," he says. "I wish the community could open up their arms and understand what's going on here at The Ginn Academy. It doesn't take all that much -- if you give the kids just a little chance they'll run with it." He's amazed at the way the large GA family has embraced him. "It doesn't matter what color anyone is or where we come from. Just show up."