With great power comes great responsibility, and Browns DT Shelby Harris was up for the challenge when he visited a Euclid City School to serve as the honorary Principal for the Day.
After arriving on campus and greeting students over the PA system, Principal Harris was accompanied by his assistant Chomps as he made his way through the halls of Bluestone Elementary School, stopping in various classrooms to greet students and congratulate them on their improved attendance. The visit was a reward from the Browns Stay in the Game! Attendance Network to the students at Bluestone, who were selected by their district after winning a district-wide attendance contest in September.
Harris, whose mother is a retired Milwaukee public school teacher, said he regularly visited his mom's classes over the years and was happy for the opportunity to give back to the Cleveland community. He also has school-aged children of his own and said it's now easier for him to relate to the students and help motivate them.
"It was cool to just be around the kids, putting smiles on their faces," Harris said. "You never know their backgrounds, so you want school to be a place where they can come and smile and enjoy their time."
Bluestone Elementary serves around 400 students in grades K-5. It's also the site of two learning centers, one for autism and the other for behaviorism. Chonda Williams, an intervention specialist at the school, said her students were so excited for the visit that she decided to create a Browns-themed lesson plan.
"I try to do everything I can do get them excited for learning," Williams said. "It seems small, but this does make a big difference for them."
During his brief tenure as principal, Harris also spent time in the cafeteria serving lunch, and in the gym, leading a parachute activity. As no Browns visit is complete without a bit of football, before leaving the gym he rallied the students for a game of catch. The students impressed Harris with their one-handed catches and choreographed celebration dances, while he showed off his throwing skills.
"Gym class was definitely my favorite," Harris said. "I was feeling good. My arm was loose, and I was throwing perfect spirals. It was a lot of fun."
Euclid City Schools District is one of over 45 school districts in the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network, having joined in 2020. The Network was founded by the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and Harvard's Proving Ground to help improve attendance across the state. For the 2022-2023 school year, Euclid decreased their chronic absenteeism rate by 9.6 percent.
This season, Browns players have visited Network schools for school supply giveaways and gym class takeovers. Harris' Principal for the Day was a first for the Browns, but likely not his last, considering he fit in well with the administration team.
"He did an amazing job and he's always welcome back," said Bluestone Elementary Assistant Principal Shateema Walker. "It really helped the students see that people care about them and people care about their education. They know now that it's important to come to school every day and come to school on time."
Though he was only Principal for a Day, Harris said he wants to continue to share the message with students that their education must come first.
"If you're not doing it for the kids, who are you doing for?" Harris asked. "If you can inspire just one, you're doing a good job."