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, May 25, 2011

The Israeli Soldiers and The Ginn Academy: Fighting for the Future

A couple of weeks ago, I was a bit baffled when I was asked to be at The Ginn Academy on a different day than usual because a group of Israeli soldiers was coming to the school. Why would a group of Israeli soldiers from the other side of the world come to The Ginn Academy, I wondered. Once I learned the whole story though, it all made perfect sense. Despite our vast geographical and cultural differences, this group would prove to be full of inspiring lessons for our young men.

The Ginn Academy is very lucky to have a group of loyal volunteers from the Jewish Federation of Cleveland who come in each week to tutor some of our students in reading. Part of the Federation's Public Education Initiative, the volunteers not only help the boys to learn but also provide a consistent and reliable support presence throughout the school year. Our school is one of seven in the Cleveland area to benefit from this organization's generous efforts.

Enter the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force. The Cleveland Jewish Federation focuses some of its efforts on a specific unit of the Israeli military called Havat HaShomer, which specializes in remedial education and extra training for disadvantaged youth who need the additional instruction and experience before becoming part of the IDF.

In a country where military service is compulsory, details of an individual's service are an important part of personal identity. People who were not involved for whatever reason (trouble with the law, incomplete schooling) are almost certainly bound for social and career troubles. The Havat HaShomer unit provides a second chance for these Israelis to succeed in their society.

Four soldiers, including one successful graduate of Havat HaShomer, Sergeant Dima Zvulunuv, told their stories to the GA Juniors. First Lieutenant Gal Sasson is a commander at Havat HaShomer and First Lieutenant Rotem Amiel is a MAKAM officer, which means she works closely with the special populations involved with Havat HaShomer.

Sergeant Zvulunuv explained to the boys about his own experiences and how he's made the transition from troubled teen to squad leader. Dima moved from the former Soviet Union to Israel with his mother and brother when he was 3 years old. He got into a lot of trouble in his teen years and because of his criminal record, when it came time to enlist, he was rejected by the army. After another four attempts he was accepted into Havat HaShomer for a second chance for a better life.

Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Levy, former deputy base commander at Havat HaShomer, explained to the GA students how willpower, persistence, belief in himself and his ability to succeed, determination, and his belief that hard work would lead to success were all crucial for Dima to successfully complete the program and change the course of his life for the better. These lessons are certainly valuable to anyone at any point in life, but for impressionable teenage boys, they are especially important.

In meeting with the soldiers and our friends from the Jewish Federation after the presentation, Coach Ginn expressed his gratitude for their visit and compared their mission with his own. "We're both fighting for the future. Whether it's a man or a soldier, we have to reach our full potential. Without that the world is at risk," Coach said. "Some people don't fit the normal situation. Everyone has potential. Sometimes we just have to dig it out!"

We are thankful to have such support from The Jewish Federation of Cleveland and the very timely and relevant guests who shared their stories with us. We believe that seeds were planted in the boys' minds that day and are infinitely appreciative of those that are willing to help others in whatever ways they can.

Kindest Regards from The Ginn Academy

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Keith: "I began to understand that life had begun."

Keith has always been a big, strong kid. A popular athlete in middle school, his power began to go to his head, leading to an apathetic attitude, bad grades, and a lot of trouble. He recalls seeing no value in education and having little respect for anything having to do with school. He swore at teachers, hurt other kids, and felt that he could simply do whatever he pleased -- a bully, he says.

In-school suspension and battling his peers and teachers took up much of Keith's time, but if he wasn't busy with those activities, he was skipping school. Anyone could see he was on a path to nowhere. He now admits that these behaviors masked his feelings of anger, self-doubt, and fear of not being good enough. He was sent to anger management classes, which did have some impact, but his ineligibility for football in 9th grade really made him realize what was going on in his life.

Keith's father took him to one of the first orientation meetings for The Ginn Academy and signed him up, despite Keith's refusal to attend an all-boys' school. A month into his 9th grade year, he realized it was something different. "I began to care. I realized this was the place for me," he explains. "Instead of always causing trouble, I became known for helping out. I became the quiet strong dude. I began to understand that life had begun."

The Ginn Academy's focus on understanding and working with the whole child is often new to boys that have had challenges in the past. Teachers and staff are hired with the understanding that this is part of the school's focus. Keith realized that he was in charge of everything that he did and that his behavior did have serious consequences. He worked hard throughout his Freshman year and was eligibile again in 10th grade to play football.

When budget cuts led to fears that the school might close last year, Keith was one of the students leading the rallying cries to keep it open. "I love this school. We don't have this anywhere and we had to show that we care. It's done so much for me," he says. "I've grown up and become a young man."

Now a quiet leader of his peers and role model to underclassmen, Keith is the epitome of a Ginn Man. In a few weeks he will graduate from The Ginn Academy as the Senior Class Vice President with an academic scholarship to Eastern Michigan University. He is currently shadowing a Euclid High School math teacher for insight into his chosen course of study and would eventually like to be a high school principal. Perhaps he will return to The Ginn Academy to continue the legacy.

Thank you for your interest in our school.

With Kindest Regards,
The Ginn Academy

College Admissions

Last year, The Ginn Academy graduated its first class of seniors. This year's senior class of 76 young men will be the first group to have gone all the way through all four years of high school at our school (of course not all of this year's seniors started with us in 9th grade -- a few began in 10th, 11th, or even this year). Eighty-five to ninety percent of our seniors attend college and are often the first members of their families to do so. The students that do not choose this path instead enlist in the military or move directly into the workforce.

It's a daunting process, college admissions, and the boys are skillfully guided by seasoned Admissions Officer and College Advisor, John Hairston. Mr. Hairston met Coach Ginn fifteen years ago when he worked as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Tri-State University in Angola, Indiana. Mr. Hairston was recruiting some of Coach's Glenville players. He now spends his days meeting with college representatives, arranging campus visits, communicating with parents, and supervising and facilitating the entire application process. Not to mention the realm of financial aid and scholarships. It's a huge and immensely important job and one that is nearing boiling point at this particular time of year. We are exceedingly thankful for the grant provided by the Cleveland Foundation that makes Mr. Hairston's position with us possible.

Two GA juniors were working with Mr. Hairston this week in his tiny office down a hallway behind the gym. Darnell and Michael recently went for a tour of the Kent State campus with 9 other boys, all of whom have a GPA of between 3.2 and 3.8. Darnell hopes to earn both a football and an academic scholarship next year with his impressive grades and skills on the field. Michael has been planning to attend Kent State so that he's able to live at home with his close-knit family.

Mr. Hairston's job includes facilitating the application process to college, connecting families to financial aid, and ACT assistance. He encourages multiple attempts at the test because the score is so important. Even the 9th graders are urged to take the last ACT of the year in June to get started on the process. By the time they are juniors, the boys should have numerous attempts under their belts. With a good ACT score and a good GPA to accompany it, the scholarship opportunities are many.

At this point in the year, 90% of the seniors have applied to colleges and and are starting to narrow down their choices. Mr. Hairston is in contact with parents and students, guiding them through the process of grants, scholarships, and student loans. He is also already working with next year's seniors to prepare them for college, as well as the underclassmen to get them acclimated to the ACT process.

Facing the future head on. We're ready!!

Kindest Regards from The Ginn Academy

Monday, May 9, 2011

Welcome. Let's get rolling!

Hello! Welcome to the inaugural post of Voices of the Ginn Academy, the blog of Coach Ted Ginn's inspiring high school for boys in Cleveland, Ohio. Each week we'll share with you stories of triumph against all odds and the successes amongst the challenges that our students face every day.

For further information about the school, Coach Ginn, or the ideas behind the blog, please click on the About tabs at the top of this page.

And if you'll scroll down just a bit, you'll see our first two stories. We hope that you'll enjoy visiting with us every week and learning more about the good things happening every day in our school in the heart of Cleveland.

Kindest Regards from The Ginn Academy

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I had the privilege yesterday of meeting some fine examples of what Coach Ginn's dedication can do for a kid if they believe in him and in themselves. Or, as they'll all tell you right up front, if their mother tells them they don't have any choice but to believe in Coach Ginn, end of story.

Four mothers and two fathers of current GA students came to visit the school and tell their stories. They explained why there was also no choice but for their sons to put on their red jackets and join the ranks of boys whose lives will be watched over and guided by Ted Ginn, Sr. They want their own children to have what they were so lucky to have when they needed it and they want the values that they are teaching at home to coincide with those that they get at school.

The parents will talk for days about the ways that they and their friends and family have been helped by Coach Ginn, but every single story comes down to a few common factors: complete and unwavering dedication, persistence, love, and an uncanny ability to read people.

Ted Ginn considers every student he's ever had contact with as family, and their family is also his family. He watches out for his family with the eyes of a hawk and never, ever hesitates to swoop in and intercede if he anticipates one speck of discord.

The parents shown here all ran track at Glenville High School for Coach Ginn in the early 90s, but they'll quickly tell you that their life lessons had nothing to do with sports. Coach likes to say that track and football are just the vehicles he uses to get the real work done.

Two of the women are sisters whose mother was having some trouble keeping them in line and asked Coach Ginn for help. When he found out that there were two other girls, cousins, at different schools, he rounded them up and brought them into the fold, too. They laugh about the rigorous workouts and the training for hours on end, and in the next breath will tell you that Coach stood in as a father to give one of them away at her wedding a few years ago.

One of the two fathers, Anthony, quietly explains how Coach took the time to just talk with him for weeks upon weeks when he moved to Glenville as a lonely 10th grader from North Carolina. He figures that Coach knew how he felt having moved here from the South as a boy, too.

Being a Ginn Man himself, Anthony, a single parent, has no doubt that his two boys are in the best place he can find for them. All of the parents will tell you that Coach remains a constant in their lives even today. He will answer their phone calls anytime, anywhere and if a child is involved, he'll pick up the keys to his white minivan and head out to see what he can do.

This immutable commitment inspires complete allegiance in those that have been affected by Mr. Ginn. I have never seen anyone refuse him anything. They know that if he asks, it's needed and that everyone must pitch in when a need arises. As Anthony says, each one teach one.

Coach Ginn's values are being carried on and passed along by so many that he's touched. Two of the parents here, Sylvia and Eric, run a youth football team and an AAU track team for their nearby community's kids. A parent club was conceived by one of the mothers in the hallway yesterday as everyone waited. There's just no stopping the infectious inspiration once you see what goes on around Coach Ginn every day. 

Thank you for visiting! We'll talk again soon.
Kindest Regards from The Ginn Academy

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chalkboard Portrait: Xavier, Class of 2010

One of the projects available to eligible Seniors is the Chalkboard Portrait project. To qualify for this, the boys must meet academic and attendance criteria and they must be recommended by a teacher.

The Chalkboard Portraits began as a way to get to know the individual spirits behind the identical uniforms, and have evolved into a study in reflection as the boys near the end of their high school careers and the beginning of the rest of their lives. They are presented with a list of questions designed to get them thinking deeply about what is important to them, who supports them in their endeavors, and where they're headed in life.

One of GA's top graduates from The Ginn Academy's first graduating class of 2010, Xavier, is shown here. You can click on the photo to enlarge it and read his story, which he told just before he graduated and left for Morehouse College in Atlanta.