As part of the Browns Give Back's commitment to education, the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the Arby's Foundation made a special announcement during a visit to CMSD's Mound STEM School today
It probably feels like yesterday when Kareem Hunt was in grade school, and on Tuesday afternoon at Mound STEM School in Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio native made a visit as part of the Cleveland Browns Foundation's "Get 2 School, Stay in the Game!" Network, a statewide initiative designed to promote the importance of school attendance and put an end to chronic absenteeism.
Hunt's time at the school included one-on-one time with a select group of students making signs, eating candy, Arby's and an ice cream social. Gifts in the form of winter hats were passed out to the kids at the end of the session.
In addition, the Arby's Foundation presented a donation of $100,000 toward the "Get 2 School, Stay in the Game!" Network.
Inspired by previous work within the attendance space and evident results from CMSD's efforts, the Arby's Foundation is proud to assist Cleveland youth with enhanced educational opportunities by providing resources that will help students get to school every day so they can succeed.
"Our local grants program helps to ensure that children in communities across the nation, including Cleveland, have the opportunity to reach their full potential," said Executive Director of the Arby's Foundation Stuart Brown. "We are thrilled to be able to once again support the Cleveland Browns Foundation and CMSD by investing critical funds for such a significant cause."
Since the inception of CMSD's and the Cleveland Browns Foundation's attendance campaign in 2015, the Arby's Foundation has been instrumental in its support for the initiative, lending assistance ranging from monthly lunch rewards as an attendance incentive to providing students with food vouchers during the summer months. The Cleveland Browns Foundation and Arby's Foundation selected CMSD as the donation's beneficiary, honoring the district's exemplary commitment to keeping kids in school and creating a framework for other districts to model to promote student attendance and overall achievement.
"Arby's contributions, along with those of the Cleveland Browns Foundation, have been critical to the success of our district attendance campaign," CMSD Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon. "This grant takes that involvement even further, helping us to dig deeper into the reasons why children are frequently absent from school and find ways to overcome barriers."
Hunt remembers his time as a student and realizes his role in his hometown community is much bigger than what he brings to the football field on Sundays.
"It means a lot to be able to spend time with the kids and reward them for having good attendance," Hunt said. "School is very important to me. I got my degree at Toledo and with that, I've got a fallback plan. I'm really happy to enjoy this time and explain to them how important school really is because you can go far with a degree by graduating."
The primary goal of the Get 2 School Network is to raise awareness and provide school districts with tools to support strong student attendance and combat chronic absenteeism. Students who are absent from school miss important learning opportunities, which can be difficult, or even impossible to make up. In fact, chronically absent students – defined as missing 10 percent of the school year or about 18 instructional days – are 89 percent less likely to graduate on time from high school.
Absences can build up quietly, and students that miss just two days a month over a nine-month school year are identified as chronically absent. The link between attendance and student success inspired the launch of the statewide Get 2 School Network. Through the Arby's Foundation donation, the network will continue working with CMSD to uncover and address additional barriers to attendance, furthering the development of engaged, academically confident learners.
The day ended with the former Willoughby South High School star walking through the hallways, high-fiving students along the way and occasionally stopping for an autograph.
He understands his presence as a role model and strives to make the community he grew up in a better place.
"Being able to come around my hometown and see kids that I was in their shoes once, it's pretty cool to be around them," Hunt said. "It's something they won't ever forget. They'll remember this for a long, long time."