32 New High Schools Join the NFF's Play It Smart Program

DALLAS, October 16, 2007 - The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) highlighted today the 32 new schools that have joined the NFF's highly successful program for at-risk student-athletes in underserved areas for the 2007-08 school year.

Launched in 1998 in four pilot schools, Play It Smart now partners with 140 schools in 82 different cities throughout the country, establishing itself as one of most comprehensive and effective youth development programs in the nation. The program has shown that sports, when coached in the proper environment, can be used as an effective tool for lifting academic performance. States with new schools include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas and Utah. New cities include Birmingham, Ala.; Lincoln, Neb.; Mescalero, N.M.; and Spanish Fork, Utah. (See below for a complete list.)

"There are a lot of mentoring programs where a big- name player goes into a school and talks to kids," said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell, "Play It Smart is totally different. Our academic coaches are in there every day of the year. We have proven that Play It Smart is highly successful, but we know that are a 1,000 schools that are in need. We feel like we have only scratched the surface."

Specifically, Play It Smart trains "academic coaches" to work with high school football teams during the entire school year, taking the lessons learned on the field and applying them in the classroom and the community. New schools were selected based on need and their commitment to the principles of the program. Several of the new schools came on board based on support received from a local organization or the local school board. In Atlanta, Ga., eight schools were added because of an annual commitment of $180,000 from the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In Dallas, Texas, the Dallas Independent School District funded academic coach positions at six of its schools.

"Play It Smart has produced phenomenal results over the past ten years," said Len Stachitas, Executive Director of Play It Smart and NFF Vice-President. "By partnering with civic organizations, government agencies, and school districts, we are able to expand into areas that may not have been possible before. Such partnerships are going to be crucial to our long term success."

The NFL and the NFL Players Association, as well as a broad-coalition of corporations, communities, individuals and organizations, continue to provide the financial support allows the program to achieve its dramatic results, which include:

95% of seniors graduating high school, compared to 85% of their peers;
80% of seniors enrolling in college compared to 62% of their peers;
Participants taking the SAT or ACT at twice the rate of their peers;
Participants completing more than 67,000 hours of community service annually;
Rosters increasing by 35% for teams with fewer than 40 players;
Participants earning more than $6 million a year in scholarships; and
190 graduates earning places among the elite collegiate ranks during the 2007 season on Football Bowl Subdivision rosters.
Play It Smart builds on the positive peer influences of team sports and a participant's interest in football. The program's academic coaches are trained in a set of guiding principles and a variety of tactics, which are designed to make academic achievement the norm. Working closely with the direct support of a team's head coach and others in the community, academic coaches hold one-on-one goal setting meetings, career and life skills sessions, mandatory study halls, SAT/ACT prep classes, community service projects and other team building events.

Administrators and coaches from around the country are saying:

"Rodney Wright, our athletics director, and I share a philosophy that our athletes are students first," said Dr. Charles Harrison, superintendent of the Mescalero Apache Schools, in Mescalero, N.M. "We believe that an athlete should be a leader on and off the field and in the classroom... We felt like an academic coach might fill the void our students needed to keep them focused and to help them manage time better. The Play It Smart program was our selection for this purpose."

"The program we have implemented is working well," said Carlos Diaz, the first year academic coach at Hillsborough HS in Tampa, Fla. "I attribute that to the cooperation and commitment to the program by our head coach, coaching staff, principal, and athletic director. I have a genuine feeling that I am an important part of the football team and coaching staff, as well as, the appreciation I have received from the parents of our players. As an alumnus of the school I am working with, I find these aspects very rewarding."

"I'm excited about the opportunity of being an academic coach," said Gary Johnson, first year academic at Westport HS, Kansas City, Mo. "The job allows me to continue to promote character in our young people today which is needed more than ever before. It is imperative to teach and instill some core values in our student-athletes whether they be used on the playing field or on a daily basis when making decisions."

"We are excited that the New Brunswick Board of Education is so convinced of the value of this program that they are committed to making sure that as many student-athletes as possible can benefit," said Laurie Lazovick, nine year veteran academic coach at New Brunswick HS in New Brunswick, New Jersey. " It is a testament to Play It Smart that the entire Zebra community is clamoring to be involved."

"Having started the Play It Smart program at the Roberto Clemente Middle School six years ago, it has been exciting to see kids graduate from high school and go off to college, and or, find jobs," said Anthony Hargett, the veteran academic coach at Roberto Clemente Middle School in New Haven, Conn. "I've been an academic coach for seven years, and it has been one of the most rewarding and positive experiences in my life."

"Being an Academic Coach for the Play It Smart Program has been extremely rewarding," said Stephen Gill, the academic coach at John Adams HS in South Bend, Ind. "There is nothing like capturing the look on a young man's face when you are able to intercede in his life and help him academically. Whether it be assisting him with NCAA Clearinghouse issues, the college application process, or SAT Prep. The feeling is priceless."

"Play It Smart is even more of a challenge than I imagined," said Jo Winfrey, the academic coach at Stratford HS in Nashville, Tenn. "I did not realize that the student-athletes, even the seniors, knew nothing about federal student aid, the clearinghouse, the importance of applying to school as soon as possible, and some of them did not know ACT/SAT scores are required to apply for college. I am literally starting from ground zero."

"Being a Academic Coach with Play It Smart is great," said Ismail Al-Amin, the academic coach at Akron Buchtel HS in Akron, Ohio. "I truly see how important the position of academic coach truly is. So many of my players are first generation college students, so the information and resources that we provide to them is crucial for their academic development and survival."

"Play It Smart is helping to fill a gap in our educational system that is truly needed when it comes to educating and empowering our student-athletes," said Latisha Forster Scott, the veteran academic coach at Franklin HS in Somerset, N.J. "Not so long ago, most colleges and universities did not have programs in place to specifically support student-athletes. Now, it's tough to find a college that does not have a student athlete support program. It's expected. I think it should be the same at the high school level. Play It Smart is helping to address that void."

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Wenonah High School, Birmingham
Woodlawn Magnet High School, Birmingham

Crenshaw High School, Los Angeles
Westchester High School, Los Angeles
Castlemont High School, Oakland

Hillsborough High School, Tampa
Boyd Anderson High School, Lauderdale Lakes

Booker T. Washington High School, Atlanta
The News Schools at Carver, Atlanta
D.M. Therrell High School, Atlanta
Douglass High School, Atlanta
Henry W. Grady High School, Atlanta
North Atlanta High School, Atlanta
South Atlanta High School, Atlanta
Southside High School, Atlanta

Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis
Lawrence North High School, Indianapolis

Edna Karr High School, New Orleans
McDonogh 35 High School, New Orleans

Lincoln High School, Lincoln

Mescalero Apache High School, Mescalero

Grand Street Campus High School, Brooklyn
Sleepy Hollow High School, Tarrytown

Aiken High School, Cincinnati
Admiral King High School, Lorain
Southview High School, Lorain

Carter High School, Dallas
Hillcrest High School, Dallas
Skyline High School, Dallas
Sunset High School, Dallas
Woodrow Wilson High School, Dallas

American Leadership Academy, Spanish Fork

(First Year in the Program)
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Chandler High School, Chandler (2002)
Cesar Chavez High School, Phoenix (2004)

Long Beach Poly High School, Long Beach (2003)
San Diego High School, San Diego (2002)
Galileo High School, San Francisco (2002)
South San Francisco High School, South San Francisco (2000)

George Washington High School, Denver (2006)

Weaver High School, Hartford (2006)
O. H. Platt High School, Meriden (2000)
James Hillhouse High School, New Haven (1998)
Roberto Clemente Middle School, New Haven (2002)

T. R. Robinson High School, Tampa (2002)
Glades Central High School, Belle Glade (2001)
William M.Raines High School, Jacksonville (2002)
Booker T. Washington High School, Miami (2002)

B.E. Mays High School, Atlanta (2002)
Clark Central High School, Athens (2002)
Bethesda Home for Boys School, Savannah (2006)

Christian Fenger Academy, Chicago (2005)
Paul L. Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, Chicago (2006)
Harlan Community Academy, Chicago (2004)
Gordon S. Hubbard High School, Chicago (2001)
South Shore High School, Chicago (2005)

Arlington High School, Indianapolis (2002)
Broad Ripple High School, Indianapolis (2001)
Northwest High School, Indianapolis (2002)
Clay High School, South Bend (2002)
John Adams High School, South Bend (2006)
Washington High School, South Bend (2006)
James Whitcomb Riley High School, South Bend (2006)
Fort Wayne High School, Fort Wayne (2006)

Topeka High School, Topeka (2006)

Holmes High School, Covington (2000)

O. Perry Walker High School, New Orleans (2002)

Portland High School, Portland (2005)

Central High School, Capital Heights (2006)
Edmondson-Westside High School, Baltimore (2004)
Forest Park Senior High School, Baltimore (2002)
Patterson Senior High School, Baltimore (2000)

Somerville High School, Brookline (2004)
O' Bryant High School of Math and Science, Roxbury (2005)
Madison Park Technical High School, Roxbury (2000)
High School of Commerce, Springfield (2001)
Roger L. Putnam Vocational High School, Springfield (2004)
Springfield Central High School, Springfield (2004)
High School of Science and Technology, Springfield (2004)

Frederick Douglass High School, Detroit (2002)

Parks Center Senior High School, Brooklyn Park (2004)
St. Paul Central Senior High School, St. Paul (2004)

Beaumont High School, St. Louis (2006)
Westport High School, St. Louis (2006)
Sumner MEGA High School, St. Louis (2006)
Clyde C. Miller Academy, St. Louis (2006)

Asbury Park High School, Asbury (2005)
East Orange Campus High School, East Orange (2005)
New Brunswick High School, New Brunswick (2000)
Barringer High School, Newark (2001)
East Side High School, Newark (2001)
Malcolm X. Shabazz High School, Newark (2001)
Weequahic High School, Newark (2001)
West Side High School, Newark (2001)
Orange High School, Orange (1998)
Franklin High School, Somerset (2004)
Irvington High School, Irvington (2006)

Christopher Columbus High School, Bronx (2000)
Canarsie High School, Brooklyn (1999)
Abraham Lincoln High School, Brooklyn (2002)
South Shore High School, Brooklyn (1998)
Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon (2003)
New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle (2004)
Roosevelt High School, New York (2006)
Bayside High School, Queens (2005)
Jamaica High School, Queens (2004)
Curtis High School, Staten Island (2004)
New Dorp High School, Staten Island (2003)
Port Richmond High School, Staten Island (2004)
George Fowler High School, Syracuse (2002)

Mojave High School, Las Vegas (2004)

West Meckenburg High School, Charlotte (2004)

Akron Buchtel High School, Akron (2000)
Winton Woods High School, Cincinnati (2002)
Glenville High School, Cleveland (2002)
Maple Heights High School, Maple Heights (2006)

Anadarko High School, Anadarko (2003)

Liberty High School, Bethlehem (2004)
Valley High School, New Kensington (2004)
Ben Franklin High School, Philadelphia (2000)
George Washington High School, Philadelphia (2002)
William Penn Senior High School, York (2004)

Central Falls High School, Central Falls (2002)
Hope High School, Providence (2002)

Columbia High School, Columbia (2002)

Austin-East Magnet High School, Knoxville (2000)
Fulton High School, Knoxville (2000)
West High School, Knoxville (2006)
Stratford Comprehensive High School, Nashville (2006)

Lincoln High School, Dallas (2004)
Furr High School, Houston (2002)
Milby High School, Houston (2002)
John H. Reagan High School, Houston (2002)

Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville (2004)
Huguenot High School, Richmond (2003)

Rainier Beach High School, Seattle (2000)

Anacostia Senior High School (2002)
Ballou Senior High School (2004)
Woodrow Wilson Senior High School (2005)

Green Bay East High School, Green Bay (2002)

East High School, Cheyenne (2004)

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