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Principal Nikole Barfield-Davis shares Super Bowl LVII experience

Browns and Stay in the Game! Attendance Network surprised Barfield-Davis with Super Bowl LVIII tickets


As Nikole Barfield-Davis walked through the Las Vegas strip on her way to Allegiant Stadium for Super Bowl LVIII, she took in the sights and sounds of all around her, from the extravagant hotels to the Super Bowl signage and fans repping jerseys from teams across the NFL.

The anticipation built as she walked through the stadium to her seats, and Barfield-Davis felt the energy and excitement surrounding her fill the stadium. As kickoff approached, she described the atmosphere as electric.

"I cried," Barfield-Davis said. "I finally realized that I am in Allegiant stadium. I am at the Super Bowl. I am here amongst people who come every year, who can afford to come every year, who this is their routine. I'm here with people who saved for years to come to this specific Super Bowl. But I'm here because someone thought that I deserve to be here. I just was in tears."

And yet, in the midst of enjoying the moment for herself, Barfield-Davis also had her students back at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School in mind. She took videos for her students to share about her experience. While she was in the stands, she received an email from a student back in Cleveland.

"He emailed me, and he said 'Miss Davis, I hope you're having a really good time at the Super Bowl. I'm watching your videos, and you look like you are having so much fun. You deserve it. I hope it was my nomination that got you there,' Barfield-Davis recalled. "I saw that, and I was in tears. I was, again, so humbled and so just thankful and grateful for the opportunity."

In December of 2023, the Browns and Stay in the Game! Attendance Network surprised Barfield-Davis with the tickets to Super Bowl LVIII. While the Browns and Stay in the Game! were at the school to celebrate their commitment to attendance, former Browns LB Anthony Walker Jr. stood in front of the assembly of over 500 students and staff members in the General Johnnie Wilson Middle School gymnasium with Barfield-Davis, and he handed her a wrapped package.

As she opened the gift to reveal two tickets to Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas, Barfield-Davis yelled in excitement and pointed towards the students to see. Then, assistant principal Ronald Wiggins and a handful of students surrounded Barfield-Davis to embrace her.

"It was well deserved," Assistant Principal Chris Wiggins said. "I've never seen anybody that deserved that, she earned that. The statement that the students wrote about her, the work that she puts in on a day-to-day basis for these kids and for our building. […] The amount of time that she puts in that she invests in her teachers and our students, it's just the only thing I can say is well deserved."

Barfield-Davis was originally nominated by an anonymous student for Stay in the Game!'s "Who makes you want to come to school?" contest and chosen as the winner.

"She's everything to the school," Assistant Principal Chris Wiggins said. "She's their mother. She's the counselor. Like she's grandma. She comes in with energy every day, positive energy, and her energy rubs off on the kids. They really feed into that. They really love her. I've never seen so much genuine love for anybody in our profession as much as I see these kids just fall for her. Like while she was out, I got so tired of the kids asking me when is she coming back? It wasn't a knock on me because the kids love me too, at least I hope, but they just couldn't wait to see her. They really missed her, and they were excited to see when she came back."

Barfield-Davis later read the nomination from the student, and it reminded her of why she has approached her job as an educator in the manner she has over her 24 years. She began her role in education as a school psychologist about 24 years ago, before she moved into administration – where she's been for the last 18 years. She started as an assistant principal and then moved up, serving as principal of an alternative school, a director of alternative education and a dean of students before becoming the principal at General Johnnie Wilson Middle School.

"I've always been the same," Barfield-Davis said. "I'm about making sure that my students know that they are loved. Know that they can be them. Know that we all make mistakes, but we can learn from them. I always tell them don't lie about it. Accept what you did, and we can figure out how to fix it. I've always been like that for people in general. It's a thankless job some days, so to get that nomination, I felt like someone knows, or feels, or views, or sees what we come to do every day."

Barfield-Davis' effort in improving student attendance is just one example of the work the Stay and the Game! Attendance Network and the Browns Foundation aim to do across the state.

To ensure Ohio youth receive the development and education they need as a foundation for independence and success, the Browns Foundation has partnered with the Columbus Crew, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and Harvard's Proving Ground to improve student attendance and reduce chronic absenteeism across the state through the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network.

Consistent school attendance is an indicator of student success. Students who have never been chronically absent are 6.7 times more likely to read on grade level by the end of third grade and 9 times more likely to graduate from high school on time.

The Network currently partners with over 57 school districts, including Lorain City Schools, to create customized attendance campaigns and interventions and will impact more than 269,000 students during the 2023-2024 school year. Next school year the Network is projected to nearly double in size in the number of participating districts, impacting even more students across the state of Ohio. The Browns Foundation provides resources, incentives, and helps raise awareness of the importance of being in school every day.

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