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, September 21, 2011

Medicine Men

Before we begin with this week's story, we'd like to share with you a promotional piece made for Lourdes University, in Sylvania, Ohio. The young man featured in the video is one of our first graduates, Jonathan Brown, Ginn Academy class of 2010. It's quite good and less than one minute long. We're so proud of JB!

And now, this week's post...

We have mentioned our many volunteers in past stories and we'd like to highlight the contributions of one of them today. Dr. Ernest Smoot, Jr., came to The Ginn Academy through a joint effort by the 100 Black Men of Cleveland organization, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), and the Boys and Girls Clubs. When the program came to an end, Dr. Smoot remained. "The need was still here so I stayed," he explains. He spends a few hours every week at the school with our students and the younger boys from the elementary school currently housed in the building. He's available to talk one-on-one and often tutors them in their math and science courses.

A native of St. Louis and one of ten children raised in an inner-city neighborhood, Dr. Smoot was heavily influenced by his parents' insistence on working hard and learning. "They placed a lot of value on reading and just always doing our best," he remembers. With no prior interest in his science classes, Dr. Smoot encountered a chemistry teacher in 11th grade who changed his perspective. "It was interesting and he really seemed to like it, so I did, too," he says. This spark of interest quickly opened up a whole new world. Two years later, Dr. Smoot started at the University of Missouri-Rolla, and was on the path to becoming a chemical engineer.

After four years of working for Chevron in Texas, having had a lifelong interest in how the human body works and in helping people, he took the biology classes needed to get into medical school. Dr. Smoot eventually came to Cleveland to work as a pediatrician for NEON (Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, Inc.). "As kids in St. Louis, my brothers and sisters and I had the benefit of the Homer G. Phillips Hospital in our neighborhood, and this was a vital part of our community," he says. "I really wanted to work in that same environment helping people in their own neighborhoods."

Although he has been mentoring and tutoring at The Ginn Academy for more than two years, it was just recently that Dr. Smoot crossed paths with one of our seniors, Levert. Levert is a quiet do-er. He's faced some very challenging times and is naturally motivated to go about his business of achieving the goals that he sets for himself.

In his Freshman year, Levert's mother had a stroke, which forced them both into years of trying times. He hasn't let these challenges lead him astray. Instead he is following the lead of a good friend, Herbert, a GA graduate, and is taking classes at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) along with his high school courses. Unlike our many students who attend Tri-C classes as part of a partnership with the CMSD, Levert navigated the offerings at Tri-C on his own and is now looking into nursing programs, which he'll enter once he completes the core classes he's taking now.

Levert and Dr. Smoot hit if off immediately as they compared their shared experiences in the health care field and their common interest in helping people. "He reminds me so much of myself when I was his age!" Dr. Smoot says. "We come from similar backgrounds and have faced similar challenges." The doctor is full of advice and experiences to share with Levert, including taking good care of himself by getting enough rest and eating well. Just what you'd expect from a pediatrician looking after a teenager!

Not one to rest on his laurels, Levert adds to his already busy schedule with additional courses in first aid and CPR and also spends time at the Indian Hills Nursing Center in Euclid. There he serves meals and helps with patient care. As of now, he's planning to focus his nursing career on working with the elderly. Sometimes after he finishes his classes at Tri-C, he stays to spend time in the pool in an effort to overcome his fear of the water after a near-drowning experience as a young boy. Levert remains true to the Ginn Academy creed and is "guided by scholarship, leadership, and service."

Thank you for your interest in The Ginn Academy, our students, and the good things that happen here every day. Please feel free to pass along our blog to others. We'll be back again in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just Part of the Blueprint

Raise your hand if you first heard of Coach Ted Ginn, Sr. because of football. That's the case with most people, so it might surprise the general population to learn that football, as a game, is not all that important to Coach Ginn. "It's just part of the blueprint," he says. "Football is the vehicle for them to get to where they're going, and education is the gas that makes that vehicle run."

With a nationally-known program, a record for the most players from one high school playing in the Big 10, regular appearances on ESPN, and, most importantly, a graduation and college placement rate that is unheard of in similar schools, no one can deny that football is an important part of Coach Ginn's blueprint. He's been part of the Glenville H.S. football team since he played there himself in the early '70s, and has been head coach since 1997. Young men grow up knowing that to play for Glenville's football team is to be part of a legend. They know that they'll have a good shot at getting the education that will put them in a position to be productive, successful men.

But it's important to make the distinction between football and the real purpose behind everything that Mr. Ginn does. Four years ago, when The Ginn Academy was founded, Coach Ginn finally had the beginning of what he wanted: to be able to reach even more Cleveland-area kids and have more time with them. Combine the time spent on the football program with the 7-hour days of school for both the players and the many, many students that have never even touched a football, and the blueprint begins to take shape. Now he has a way to really influence a good number of kids in the community. "I have shown that sports have given kids hope and an opportunity to be productive, so the kids buy into our program because that's what they want," he explains. "The kids know that here, someone's going to love them, care for them, and help them dream to be the best. They will have an opportunity in this world to be somebody. We're just an example of hope to them."

When asked how many football players he's sent to college on scholarship, he readily admits he's lost track. He knows that there are more than 300 athletes, but with the Academy now churning out graduates, these numbers are already ballooning. With more than a 90% graduation rate (almost all attending college), The Ginn Academy will now send approximately 60 young men to college each year. Students who attend The Ginn Academy play sports for their home school. We often have students who compete against each other on the field, but at the school they are part of the brotherhood of The Ginn Academy.

A program like Glenville's requires a lot of dedicated people to keep things running smoothly. In addition to Coach Ginn, there are four paid assistant coaches and a few volunteer coaches that run the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman programs with 120 kids. Coach is approached by people all over the country that want to pit Glenville against other powerful high school teams and he chooses a couple each year that work well for them. He is also the promoter of his players. "I do the promoting; the kids do the performing: in the classroom and on the field," he says. "College coaches know what we're teaching here. These are the type of kids they want. They know they're being taught more than just football and they want to recruit the top student athletes. Ultimately, it brings more resources to their schools."

In season, the players have practice every day after school from 4 - 6 p.m. They have to spend time at the study table each week, and they're advised to try to get 10 hours of sleep a night and to eat right. On the nights before big games, the kids and all of their gear are loaded up and sequestered at a hotel. "We like to get them out of their environment so that they can focus on the game," explains Coach Ginn. "It's also a good way to expose them to how it'll be when they go to college and live on their own." In the off-season, the kids still have to stay in shape, so they might get up at 5 a.m. and catch an RTA bus (or two) to Glenville H.S. for a workout before school starts. Then they take another bus from there to GA.

V'Angelo, a senior who's been at GA since 9th grade, learned about Glenville football when Ted Ginn, Jr. was a star at Ohio State. V'Angelo knew that Ted had come from Glenville, so he researched the program and found out how many kids Coach Ginn had put into college. Having attended Catholic school since he was very young, he wanted to give the Academy and Coach Ginn a try and convinced his mother, a nurse at the VA, to let him. "She'd heard of Coach Ginn, but it was really me telling her, 'I think this is best for me, so let me try it,'" he explains. "I see football doing great things for me, things that I've always dreamed about. I believe Coach Ginn has put people around me -- coaches and the youth support at school -- that help me to get to where I want to be." V'Angelo has always been interested in architecture and plans to study something in that field at college next year. He attends The Ginn Academy in the morning and Hi-Tech Academy at Tri-C (a postsecondary program offered by CMSD) until mid-afternoon.

One of our juniors, Brandon, has been playing football since he was 8 years old and learned about the Academy from friends. "I heard about how good the school was and how Coach Ginn is a really good mentor," he says. Brandon still has another two years of high school, but he knows that he wants to graduate high school, go to college and get a degree, possibly in sports medicine. His mother, a Cleveland police officer, knows that he's going down the right path at GA. "She loves the school and the football program, too," Brandon says.

These boys, and the hundreds other just like them, are putting themselves in a position to succeed. But to do this, they have to understand, first and foremost, that they are here to get an education. Football can help them, in a big way, to achieve their dreams, but that's not why they're here. "If a kid comes in and thinks it's all about football, I tell him 'You've got your lanes crossed up. I'm about saving your life,'" he says. "We've got a movement going on here to educate young men. It's a serious matter; it's nothing to play with. You won't find the kind of graduation rate that we've got here in an all African American public male high school anywhere else. This is the kind of love, passion, and understanding that we need all across the country."

Thank you for joining us today. As always, we send our kindest regards.