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Browns deliver 'Special Teams Packages' in an effort to bolster school attendance

The Browns and Shoes and Clothes for Kids handed out Special Teams Packages at George Washington Carver School to reward school attendance.

Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey and offensive lineman Marcus Martin assimilated into a second-grade class at George Washington Carver Elementary School with ease as part of a visit to the school Tuesday afternoon.

They were there to support the "Special Teams Package" clothing program, a partnership with Shoes and Clothes for Kids (SC4K) and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to support school attendance by providing school uniforms, daily clothing items and school supplies. In addition to unveiling those packages, Kirksey and Martin read to almost 20 second-grade students, played games and smiled for photos.

"It means a lot to me to be that positive role model to these kids," Kirksey said.

"A lot of people don't realize that when people are missing school and things like that, they may not have clothes to wear, so when you see kids' faces light up when they get a new pair of pants, a new shirt or a simple things like socks, school supplies, toothpaste, toothbrush, that really is just something special to see."

A long-standing partner of the Browns, Shoes and Clothes for Kids is the only non-profit organization in Greater Cleveland that provides new school uniforms, shoes, clothes and school supplies through the year to thousands of children in need at no charge. This past summer, Uniform for Kids (U4K) merged with SC4K, allowing them to include school uniforms into their distribution of basic clothing to partners.

As evidenced Tuesday, Shoes and Clothes for Kids, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Browns Give Back have collaborated to provide uniforms, clothing, shoes and school supplies to students across the region in support of CMSD's "Get 2 School, You Can Make It!" attendance campaign. Through the "Special Teams Packages" partnership with the Browns,  SC4K expects to serve more than 3,000 students by the end of this school year in alignment with the partnership's efforts to help provide resources and eliminate barriers to foster positive learning environments for all students.

"Our goal is to eliminate barriers to kids getting to school," said Tracy Jemison, the board chairman of Shoes and Clothes for Kids. "So what we've done with the partnership with CMSD and the Cleveland Browns is put together a Special Teams Package which, as you just saw, is essentially a week's worth of free school uniforms, socks, underwear, a casual outfit and a shoes gift card so these kids can get to school and not have to worry about what they're going to wear."

CMSD tracks attendance for students who receive a "Special Teams Package" as part of the "Get 2 School, You Can Make It!" campaign to record the impact of new clothing on school attendance. Through its research, CMSD learned students who are chronically absent are linked to lower academic performance and graduation rates and is striving to improve overall attendance through the campaign, along with the support of the Browns and SC4K.

"We know one of the reasons our kids don't come to school is because they don't have adequate clean clothes that are ready for school, and so when we talked to the Browns, they partnered with us and Shoes and Clothes for Kids," CMSD CEO Eric Gordon said.

"We know when we provide this clothing, we increase student attendance for that child between 3 and 24 percent, it has a huge impact for the kids."

Education is a core focus area of Browns Give Back, and the Cleveland Browns Foundation supports this mission through financial grants and other resources to local education non-profits to ensure youth in Northeast Ohio receive the education and development they need as a foundation for independence and success.

Browns Give Back has identified three areas of impact for education – school attendance, early learning and college and career readiness – with the goal of identifying opportunities, removing barriers and providing support for students to empower them for long-term success.

That's why the "Special Teams Package" is such a critical part of that mission.

"We've worked on the program for over a year now," said Renee Harvey, vice president of the Cleveland Browns Foundation, "but to see the physical contents being opened by the students, and to see how substantive the items are and the quality of the items, it was very breathtaking and it was very heart-warming and inspiring to help us hopefully continue to do more."

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