The Cleveland Browns kicked off 2024 with their fourth Gym Class Takeover of the 2023-24 school year on Jan. 9, in partnership with Meijer.
As the winner of an attendance competition before Christmas break, Mary McLeod Bethune School was awarded the Gym Class Takeover: Playoff Edition for their efforts in increasing attendance of their students and their involvement in the Browns Flag In-Schools program and the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network.
In front of an all-school assembly with about 200 students present, Browns alumni Hanford Dixon spoke to the students, sharing about the importance of education and football in his own life, as well as building excitement in the gym about the Browns heading to the playoffs.
Then, Alan Jordan, Store Director of the Fairfax Market by Meijer, presented the Cleveland Metropolitan School District with a $5,000 donation, in honor of Meijer opening of the Fairfax Market in Cleveland, which opens in the Cleveland Innovation District on Jan. 16.
"Fairfax Market is committed to being more than just a new store. We will be an involved partner, investing in the community and supporting local businesses," Jordan said. "We look forward to providing convenient access to fresh, quality food and other necessities at good prices, and we can't wait to welcome our neighbors into the store this month."
CMSD designated the funds from the donation to Project ACT. CMSD's Project ACT provides direct instructional and support services to children and youth residing in temporary emergency shelters, transitional housing and doubled-up students staying with other families due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar situations.
"We are so excited because one of the things we have found with our students when they come in to work with our life skill coaches is they are always hungry," Director of Project ACT Dr. Marchia Zashin said. "They are always looking for something extra to eat. And with this donation, we will be able to purchase nutritious foods that we can put in each of our sites that children will be able to have when they come in to work with their life skill coach. So, this is really amazing."
Project ACT provides a holistic and comprehensive approach is used to deliver instructional and support services necessary to facilitate the child's transition into school, and to ensure the child's success and ongoing participation in the educational system.
Support services include everything necessary to accomplish the goal of meeting students' physical, social and emotional needs, and empowering parents to support their children in this endeavor. All appropriate resources from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are employed to achieve this goal. They are also supporting additional food insecurity for students who participate in Project ACT.
"Meijer is new in Cleveland, and we're very excited; I can't wait to go visit the store that's going to open up around the corner from this school," Zashin said. "I think we will take some of our unaccompanied youth that really don't have a lot of food on a little field trip to Meijer to see the brand-new store and to help us decide what type of food they would like to have as snacks to eat during the day. So, that might be a fun thing to do."
Playoff Gym Class Takeover presented by Meijer at Mary Bethune Elementary on January 9, 2024.
Meijer also presented a $5,000 check to the Cleveland Browns Foundation to help support the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network and their continued efforts in improving attendance in the state of Ohio. Students who have never been chronically absent are 6.7x more likely to read on grade level by the end of third grade. They are also 9x more likely to graduate from high school on time and go to college and build a career.
The Browns continued the donations, as Dixon announced that the Browns matched Meijer's $5,000 gift to CMSD to support youth football engagement at the school for health and safety, in addition to physical education needs.
Browns Flag In-Schools is a new initiative that is officially live in 29 elementary schools across three districts in Northeast Ohio – with Cleveland Metropolitan School District being one of the three. Browns Flag-In Schools is focused on developing a turn-key flag football implementation model for elementary physical education teachers and their classes, aiming to prioritize flag football as an in-school physical activity that also builds and maintains a foundation of healthy, lifelong physical activity for students. The program works in tandem with the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network by providing school-based activities to further engage students and increase school attendance.
Following the presentation of the checks, a day full of games ensured for about 60 students who were chosen to participate in the Gym Class Takeover and clinics. Volunteers from Meijer coached the six stations that the athletes cycled through, and those students received t-shirts and swag bags for their participation in the event.