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Amazon donates $25,000 to Cleveland Browns Foundation for Stay in the Game! Attendance Network

Browns and Stay in the Game! Attendance Network surprised General Johnnie Wilson Middle School principal with Super Bowl LVIII tickets 

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As principal Nikole Barfield-Davis stood in front of over 500 students and staff members in the gymnasium at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School, she received a shocking surprise.

LB Anthony Walker Jr. stood in front of the assembly with Barfield-Davis, and he handed her a wrapped package. As she opened the gift to reveal two tickets to the Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Barfield-Davis yelled in excitement and pointed towards the students to see. Then, assistant principal Ronald Wiggins and a handful of students surrounded Barfield-Davis to embrace her.

"I felt good," Barfield-Davis said. "Just to see them come together in a positive light, and to win something. I'm super-duper excited. It's been a really tough two years and I'm just thankful that we came together. I'm thankful for my staff, my family members, the Browns, Amazon for thinking that my students, the superintendent for always supporting me. I'm just really thankful today."

It wasn't the only gift of the day.

On Dec. 19, Amazon donated $25,000 to the Cleveland Browns Foundation for the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network as part of Amazon's TNF for GOOD Initiative – with its goal to provide community support in all the cities hosting Thursday Night Football this season. The Browns will welcome the New York Jets to Cleveland Browns Stadium on Dec. 28 for the Week 17 Thursday Night Football game.

"The Browns have been a great partner in supporting the community," Amazon's Head of Community Affairs Ian Conyers said. "And on behalf of over 30,000 Amazonians who call Ohio home, it's been an honor to work on education and making sure that we can support all the students, the administrators and especially a great principal here in Lorain. […] We know that there's a fantastic (initiative) that the Browns have spearheaded in (Stay in the Game!), and we think it's something that's just really fantastic and we're proud to get behind it."

In the U.S., Amazon's community investments for 2023 include providing over $1M to children and young adults from underrepresented and underserved local nonprofit organizations that address immediate needs in education.

To ensure Northeast Ohio youth receive the development and education they need as a foundation for independence and success, the Browns Foundation has partnered with the Columbus Crew, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and Harvard's Proving Ground to improve student attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism across Ohio through the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network.

Amazon School Takeover and Super Bowl Ticket Announcement on December 19, 2023 at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School.

Consistent school attendance is an indicator of student success. Students who have never been chronically absent are 6.7x more likely to read on grade level by the end of third grade and 9x more likely to graduate from high school on time.

The Network partners with over 50 school districts, including Lorain City Schools, to create customized attendance campaigns and interventions and will impact more than 250,000 students this school year. The Browns Foundation provides resources, incentives, and helps raise awareness of the importance of being in school every day.

"Stay in the Game! was very honored to be the recipient of the $25,000 from Amazon," Cleveland Browns Foundation Vice President Renee Harvey said. "It goes a long way to support our districts to provide the resources they need so that they can encourage students to attend school regularly. I think one of the other important pieces of this work is the fact that this is really a team sport. We all have a role that we can play to help encourage kids to go to school regularly. And so, for a company like Amazon to really show up with resources to help us do that work, it really goes a long way. It's very meaningful."

The Browns and Stay in the Game! Attendance Network also awarded four teachers with tickets to the Browns' Thursday Night Football game against the Jets. These teachers were selected for their individual efforts of encouraging their students to come to school.

Barfield-Davis called their families and invited them to support the teachers at the event on Dec. 19 as they received the tickets in front of the assembly of students. Barfield-Davis expressed a sincere amount of joy for her teachers as they were surprised with the tickets to Thursday's game.

"Those are my rock stars," she said. "And trying to keep a secret because I have such a big mouth and just find out that they knew all along. It's just such a blessing. I'm just so thankful for everything every day. And my life journey there have always been angels and you guys have been an angel for me today. And not only you, but that's student for recognizing that I came to do a job and that I'm doing it, and it just really makes me feel good."

However, the main surprise was to award Barfield-Davis the tickets to the Super Bowl. She was originally nominated by an anonymous student for Stay in the Game!'s "Who makes you want to come to school?" contest and chosen as the winner of the contest.

"I am so overwhelmed, but I know what I come here to do every day," Barfield-Davis said. "And middle school is not a fun place to be – you're developing, you're just learning who you are, and no one should be afraid to grow and develop and be different. We are all superstars in our own right. So, everybody should be able to show their superpower and I believe that."

Barfield-Davis said that the experiences of her two children in middle school have helped her be the middle school principal that she is for her students. Barfield-Davis came from a high school alternative school, and she developed a more mature way of working with older students. Now, being at the middle school level for about three years, she had to shift her methods.

"Watching them manifest through middle school and doing it successfully and talking with them all the time about what middle school students want, it has helped me be more of who I am naturally. So, I just want to say thank you to my family," Barfield-Davis said.

While the teachers and Barfield-Davis were recognized at the assembly, so were the students. Walker – who is the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network player ambassador – addressed the students at the assembly and congratulated them for their efforts to attend school. General Johnnie Wilson Middle School was selected out of 200 schools based on the effort of the kids to be in school and improve their attendance.

Two students from each grade – each of whom have dedicated themselves to improving their attendance – participated in Minute to Win It style games for a grand prize. They were joined by Walker and James Proche II in competing in the games. There were three rounds before the final championship round, where the two finalists had to wrap Walker and Proche in wrapping paper, and a winner was awarded by crowd applause.

Barfield-Davis said events like the Browns held on Dec. 19 can do wonders for the morale of students.

"I just think for my school it's an amazing win," Barfield-Davis said. "I always talk about winning, winning, winning, and this was one that actually came to life for them. And they know it was their efforts made it come to life. So, that really makes me excited to let them know that through all the middle school experiences that may not be so good all the time, that this was one that they'll remember for the rest of their lives."

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