Mantua – The gymnasium at the Crestwood Middle School reverberated with excitement last week, as Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley entered. Timmy and Jacob, two of the over 400 students filling the bleachers, sat in a prime spot in the first row as they waited for Brantley’s arrival. In their Indians garb, the two sixth-graders clutched baseball cards and a bobble head, hoping for autographs from Brantley. Students went wild as Brantley entered the room, amid a flurry of camera flashes from local media. He awarded a $5,000 grant to CMS on behalf of the Game Plan For Success program, through the Learning Heroes organization. In his address, Brantley shared that growing up, his parents made sure he understood that his education was his priority, and sports came second. He shared with students the reason he puts in so much extra practice; “to be the best I can be for my team and for you guys,” he concluded, “just like you’ve been doing here at school.”

Crestwood Middle School was selected as one of three winning schools in Ohio in its ‘Game Plan for Success’ contest. The contest encourages schools, teachers, students and parents to share the story of how hard work, practice and high expectations paid off. “We see the correlation between success in sports and success in education,” explained Jim Cowen, Project Director at Game Plan For Success. To succeed in the big leagues, professional athletes aim high, listen to coaches, practice hard, and then test themselves on game day. That same game plan leads to big wins in classrooms.”

In her prize-winning entry, Crestwood Middle School Principal Julie Schmidt shared the success CMS has found with their Crestwood Intensive Care Unit (CICU) program. In the school-wide program, every student is held accountable to complete every assignment. Students who do not complete assignments due to absence, or apathy report to CICU, because, according to Schmidt, “their grade is “sick” and in need of assistance.” Through the program, students have access to computers, textbooks, calculators, and most importantly, Teacher-Lifeguards, to complete missing assignments.  Students can attend CICU during their lunch period or before or after school to complete necessary assignments.

As a daily reminder, Principal Schmidt ends her morning announcements with, “Let’s make it a great day at Crestwood Middle School, where every student completes every assignment!” But it goes well beyond lip service. “It is a simple phrase, but our students take the message to heart and so do our teachers and parents.” As a result of the program, Schmidt reports that both CMS students’ grades and their attendance have improved over the previous year.

“Students tell me that they feel better about school and their classes, because they don’t fall behind and they understand the material better,” Schmidt explained. “Parents appreciate no longer having to battle kids to do homework, and to check the on-line grade books to make sure their child is on top of their work,” she continued.  “Students are more engaged, enthusiastic, and care more about school. They know they have to complete all assignments, so they work hard to do it timely and properly or risk the chance of having to do/redo the assignment in CICU.”

“Crestwood Middle School’s CICU program shows a commitment not only to teaching to higher standards, but also to ensuring that all students have the tools they need to succeed,” continued Cowen. “Through CICU, Crestwood has engaged teachers, students and their families to ensure that all students feel supported,” concluded Cowen. “We’re excited to celebrate the success at Crestwood and share their story as an example to other schools in Ohio and across the country.”

In addition to $5,000, Game Plan For Success presented Mrs. Schmidt with a framed, personalized comic strip illustration about the program, signed by Michael Brantley. Afterwards, the MLB player graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with CMS students and staff.