Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ted Ginn Sr.: Having the Courage to be Different

(CBS) Time for a break from all the bad economic news. Instead … The Good News, stories to be thankful for, featuring an American who made his community better against the odds. Correspondent Armen Keteyian takes us to Ohio:

November 30, 2008

Ted Ginn Sr. just might be the most unlikely head of a high school in the country.

A local football coach, he never went to college and doesn't have any teaching or administrative credentials. Yet the school he conceived and runs, the Ginn Academy, is one of the most successful public schools in Cleveland.

"I did so many things different," Ginn said. "I did what other people didn't do. You know what I'm saying?"

"They're going right …" Keteyian said.

"And I'm going left. Because if you're going right and it's not working, you gotta do something different."

So the boys-only Ginn Academy targets at-risk teens, because Ginn says he knows how to reach them.

"You have to teach a kid to dream and not just to dream, you can dream big."

But there's a lot of people that talk about dreams. There are very few who create their own academy with 200 at-risk boys walking the halls, going to class.

How was he able to convince people that his way was the right way?

"I'm not talking about it. I'm being about it. I'm doing it everyday."

He says he needs sweatpants and a whistle, because he runs his school - now in its second year - the way he runs his football teams.

For example, the kids wear uniforms - red coats, with different kinds of ties for different grades.

"You know, when you step on the field you dress, you got a uniform," Ginn said. "And I got the red jackets because you have to be tough to wear a red jacket everyday. They gonna laugh at you. But if you believe in why you wearing that jacket, you know, whatever they say don't matter, you know?

"You gotta have courage to be different."

The students agreed. "When you dress up in the morning, you have a different look, you have a different walk in your step," one boy said.

"It makes us feel better inside like we get more pride," another said.

But Ginn says, a big part of standing out is standing together as so-called Ginn men, living the words recited at the beginning and end of every day:

"We will stay patient, poised, and seize every opportunity for success."

"That's not language you hear a lot in the inner city, Ted," Keteyian said.

"That's right."

Ted Ginn Sr. has been changing the language of the inner city for nearly 30 years, as a coach at nearby Glenville High School.

A machinist by trade, Ginn was working as a school security guard and volunteer assistant coach at Glenville for 10 years when the head coach job opened up.

Without a college degree, Ginn didn't meet the requirements for the job. But he believed he could make a difference and he wouldn't stop until everyone else did, too. He got the job and soon was winning one state title after another.

His "sons," as he calls them, went on to receive more than a million dollars in college scholarships. Among them: Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, and Ginn's actual son, Ted Ginn Jr, a rising star with the Miami Dolphins.

And that led Ginn Sr to lobby the city board of education with an idea that, at first, sounded outrageous: To start an academy. And how did he get from football coach to head of school?

"Dr. Sanders," Ginn laughed.

"He has the unique capacity to be a teacher, a leader of men and women, and I felt very strongly that he just possessed this wonderful talent to work with young people," said Eugene Sanders, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"I think there are a lot of correlations between what we learn as an athlete to life and particularly to school. And I think the results speak for themselves," Sanders said.

Indeed, they do. While about 69% of 10th graders in Cleveland's public high schools are on or above grade level on standardized reading tests, the red coats average nearly 82%.

What does that mean to Ginn?

"That means everything, because that's what it is - that's what you are gauged by. You're going to be judged by the tests," he said. "They want to compete, you know? They don't wanna be shamed."

The Academy's first class will graduate next year. Ginn sees every student as a representative of himself and his academy - and that means sending each one to college and into the world as a man … a Ginn man.

"I wanna be the best, the greatest," he said. "We got the greatest kids in the world. We're not even near where we need to be, you know? The best."

The Ginn Academy Creed

Our mission is to become exemplary students who will reach our full potential and beyond.

We will recognize our genius and realize our self-worth.

We will stay patient and poised to seize every opportunity for success.

We are guided by scholarship, leadership and service to all mankind.

The Ginn Academy will cultivate us to become global leaders of the century.

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