Browns unveil 'Special Teams Package' program in hopes of bolstering school attendance

The Browns Foundation, Browns players and mascot Chomps made a special delivery to Clara E. Westropp School to launch a new program aimed at supporting school attendance, in partnership with Shoes and Clothes for Kids.

CLEVELAND — The Browns might not ever take shoes and clothes for granted after a visit to the Clara E. Westropp School.

Offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper, defensive lineman Xavier Cooper, offensive lineman Alvin Bailey and kicker Cody Parkey spent Tuesday morning in an effort to cast a spotlight on the new "Special Teams Package" program, which provides clothes to students in need in an effort to bolster school attendance.

"If you think about Maslow's theory of hierarchy of needs, it's very difficult to focus on your academic studies when you don't have what you need. I have seen kids who come to school shivering with no socks when it's slushing and raining and you know we're about to approach that season," said Lorri Hobson, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's director of student attendance.

"So it becomes significantly important that our families understand your needs are important to us as well.  It's not that we just want your children to well in school, it's that we're concerned about their fundamentals needs so that they can perform as expected."

And the Browns Foundation— spearheaded by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and vice president of the Cleveland Browns Foundation Renee Harvey — are working to do just that alongside CMSD and Shoes and Clothes for Kids.

"Shoes and Clothes For Kids has been fortunate enough to be a beneficiary of the Cleveland Browns Foundation for many years and about a year ago, the Cleveland Browns Foundation got us altogether, convened ourselves and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to try and find a better way to impact school attendance," said Terry Uhl, the executive director of Shoes and Clothes for Kids in Cleveland.

"The way we had been giving out clothing was good but wasn't having the outcome we wanted and they knew we could probably do better. So working with the schools and the Browns Foundation, we came up with a new way to get school uniforms, casual clothes, socks, underwear and a Payless gift card into the hands of students who need it the most."

Through the "Special Teams Package" and a $100,000 grant award from the Browns, the program will serve up to 2,000 students in alignment with their foundation's mission to offer resources and eliminate barriers to foster positive learning environments for all students.

One of those barriers is a lack of proper attire.

"We've all seen that there's a whole lot of issues that affect kids coming to school," Uhl said. "The schools have made clear to us that uniforms and school supplies and winter shoes are a slice of it. Not the only thing, but a slice of it.  This will at least give them the things they need every day.

"They want to break the barrier of kids not coming to school because maybe they don't have the shoes or the clothing that's necessary to just maintain the upkeep so it's just awesome to be able to come here and give them a few items," Cooper said. "The kids were so grateful, it was a great time, great being with the guys. I felt like a little kid, it's weird being back in the classroom it's been so long.

CMSD will track attendance for students who receive a Special Teams Packages 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 Cleveland Browns.

"We're really finding that incentives and awards are fantastic but we really need to dive deeper and find out what's really keeping kids from school, and access to uniforms and clothing is one of those items," Harvey said.

"And so for us to do this collaboration with two amazing partners to alleviate some pressure for these students, if we can help get them to school every day, it's a huge win. Every child deserves a high-quality education and so if, it's a win across the board."

The Browns players also spoke of character, family and education in a series of talks.

"I think today is a day that'll never be forgotten for our scholars. As I look at their faces, I can see the surprise and the appreciation and the admiration that an NFL player took time out of their day to think about me, embrace me or engage me," Hobson said.

"I heard so many incredible things from the players today such as your character is who you are when no one is working. I heard one of the players define liberty as being able to make a choice, make a decision that allows you to be free of poverty."​

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