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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Justin Hardee, Class of 2012 and Graduate of the University of Illinois

In May of 2012, Justin Hardee graduated third in his class from The Ginn Academy. In December of 2013, his beloved mother, Estella, passed away. In December of 2014, he graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in communications. He's twenty years old and is now well on his way to earning a master's degree in sports management. How did this happen? It took a lot of hard work, and a lot of people paying attention to where Justin was headed and guiding him along the right path.

As an eighth-grader choosing his high school, Justin knew what he wanted in his life: to be great, to be successful, and to get the good education that his parents had always insisted upon. His older cousin, Devonte Reid, was at Ginn Academy and liked it a lot. "I chose Ginn Academy because it was a free education and not too far away from home. I knew what my goals were and wanted to put myself in the best position to be successful," he says.

Justin Hardee and his father, Arthur, in the house where Justin grew up
Education was first and foremost growing up in Justin's home. His mother, Estella, worked at the telephone company for 28 years and his father, Arthur, is chief of police at Case Western Reserve University. "My mom didn't care too much about sports. She was always focused on my grades and was quick to say something if I wasn't doing well in a class," says Justin. Arthur Hardee agrees. "I knew he'd be a good football player, but the classroom is what's really important," he says. "He's been very blessed over the years and I'm sure his mom would be ecstatic."

Justin sent this photo of his mother, Estella, for this story
Justin's path, like anyone anywhere, could've led him to a different outcome. He was spending time with guys who didn't have the same goals as he did and could've gotten into some trouble if it weren't for his family and the friends who kept him going in the right direction. "My family instantly was on me when I was headed the wrong way," he recalls. "The group of guys I hang with now inspired me to do better, to be better. To be great."

V'Angelo Bentley, Shane Wynn, and Justin Hardee drove together in terrible weather from Illinois to Indiana to Canton, Ohio for the state championship football game in 2013 to support their Tarblooder brothers
Justin Hardee, now at the University of Illinois, gets a hug from Glenville football coach, James Fisher in 2013

The group of friends from high school still stays in touch constantly and they support each other in good times and bad. You can see them on Twitter and Instagram celebrating each other's successes and lifting each other up in harder times even though they're no longer in the same city.

Justin specifically mentions Sean Draper, currently at the Unversity of Iowa, as a significant influence on him and his friend Devan Bogard, at Ohio State. "He'd get mad at us if we were even close to doing anything stupid. Without him being on us, I don't know if we'd be in the position that we're in now," he explains.

At the beginning of his football career with Coach Ginn at Glenville, Justin knew he'd have to climb some mountains to achieve his goals. He ran track and worked hard on getting faster and stronger. He was accepted into  High Tech Academy, a CMSD post-secondary program at Cuyahoga Community College, and attended classes for half of each school day at the downtown campus. "I did hate it at one point," he says. "Everyone else got out early our senior year and I still had to go downtown to Tri-C to take more classes, but I stuck with it and I'm glad I did." These classes were what helped him to graduate early from the University of Illinois and proceed into the graduate program. 

Justin's Auntie Wanda making cupcakes for his surprise party the next day

Justin (the tall one in the back), and his family. L-R: Layla, Steve, Julia, Joy, Laycie, Sontee, Wanda, and Angel
If there were mountains to climb, it was the environment at Ginn Academy that helped keep Justin motivated to keep going. He misses his days in high school and credits his time at Ginn for helping him get to where he is now. "I brag about Coach Ginn just about every day," he says. "Being around that type of environment motivates a guy, motivated me. We are proving that you don't have to do bad things to get money. You can gt a degree and earn money the right way."

Coach Ginn always says that it takes courage to be different, and it does. Justin Hardee, Ginn Academy class of 2012, is the perfect example of what that courage can earn a person.