On Monday, August 5th the Electronic Merchant Systems team sponsored and participated in the Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation Annual Golf Outing. It was a beautiful day filled with great golf, an auction, raffle prizes, fantastic food, and not a cloud in the sky. During the event, we sat down with the Executive Director of the foundation, Ori Akrish, to learn a bit more about the foundation’s history and mission.
History of the Inner Circle Foundation
When the Inner Circle Foundation was originally created, the NFL did not have a substance abuse policy. As a result, some players were struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Cleveland Browns Coach Sam Rutigliano and Dr. Gregory Collins worked together to form the Inner Circle Foundation, an anonymous program to help NFL players maintain drug-free, healthy lifestyles. The Cleveland Browns were the first to participate in the program, and the Browns Inner Circle still serves as an example for all NFL teams today.
After the program was in effect for a few years, Coach Sam and Dr. Collins began to notice that some ex-NFL players were struggling financially. After playing professional football for years, they should have been pretty well set. However, some came upon hard times and were out of money within a few years. Coach Sam learned that some of these players had very low literacy levels, which prevented them from finding a job outside of the NFL. It was then that the foundation decided to shift its focus to promoting literacy for children in their pivotal learning years.
Promoting Literacy for Cleveland's Children
In 2009, the second version of Coach Sam’s Inner Circle was formed. Since then, it has been an after school program serving at-risk children. Each week, students focus on three different programs; literacy, personal development, and health & fitness. The strongest focus is on literacy, and the program is designed for 3rd grade students. The foundation’s research has shown that 3rd grade is a milestone year for students. It is the year in when they go from “learning to read to reading to learn”. The foundation has started to develop programs for 2nd and 4th grade students as well, but still focus on 3rd grade as a pivotal year.
Through the literacy program, students practice reading aloud and independently, writing in response to reading, and critical thinking and problem solving. Students also receive personalized assistance for two hours per week, and exposure to incredible literature including 175 classic books. The personal development program allows children to connect with successful community role models, have contact with high achieving individuals, be introduced to community resources designed for their benefit, and foster social and coping skills. Through the health & fitness program, children learn the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. They also have the opportunity to participate in fun activities like rowing, golf, and dance. The foundation also provides resources, newsletters, and text updates to families to keep them engaged with their children’s education both in and out of the classroom.
The Foundation Expects to Expand Reach in 2019/2020
Due to the tireless efforts of the staff and volunteers and financial gifts from donors, the foundation is growing rapidly. Starting with 2 schools in 2009, they have now expanded their reach to 8 schools and expect to reach 10 in the upcoming year. “Now we’re at the point where we can make a major impact”, said Ori Akrish, Executive Director of the foundation. Based on the hundreds of children the program has already reached, we’d say Coach Sam’s Inner Circle is well on their way to becoming a premier literacy program.
Electronic Merchant Systems is honored to contribute to this outstanding organization that serves and cares for the children of Cleveland. Coach Sam Rutigliano said it best at Monday’s event, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Thanks to Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation, hundreds of children in the Cleveland Metropolitan City School District know just how much we care.