COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew – in partnership with Lower.com, Nationwide, the U.S. Soccer Foundation and Columbus City Schools – today celebrated their sixth mini-pitch installation in the past five years during a dedication ceremony at Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls. The project is part of the Club’s ongoing efforts to advance education and youth soccer in Columbus.
Prior to the ceremonial first kick and soccer activity on the mini-pitch, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Chris Woolard, Haslam Sports Group CEO Dee Haslam and Columbus City School representatives emphasized the importance of school attendance, decreasing chronic absenteeism and engaging students, the mission of the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network. The group highlighted Ohio’s commitment to improving school attendance during the Ohio Takes the Pledge to Stay in the Game! event, and the Ohio Attendance Taskforce announced recommendations to improve school attendance and reduce chronic absence.
“We are committed to creating opportunities for our youth so that they can reach their full potential, and getting to school every day and staying engaged sets the foundation for their success and the future of our state,” said Dee Haslam. “Through the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network and our installation of youth soccer and football fields in Ohio, we want to help provide students and districts access to the resources they need so they can excel in the classroom and beyond.”
“The power of sports, especially soccer as the global game, is their ability to bring communities together, and our mission with the mini-pitch project is to offer our city additional spaces to come together while promoting education and youth soccer,” said President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “We are grateful for the opportunity to provide these resources in Columbus with the support of our partners in Columbus City Schools, Lower.com, Nationwide and the U.S. Soccer Foundation.”
Whether it’s soccer or football, the Crew and Browns embrace sports’ unique ability to inspire and unite communities and youth, including as sports participation leads to more engaged students who are attending school regularly and enhanced learning inside and outside of the classroom.
As part of the Crew’s year-round efforts to grow participation in and a love of the beautiful game, as well as education, the Club’s mini-pitch initiative, supported by Lower.com, Nationwide and U.S. Soccer Foundation, now encompasses six locations. The Crew previously installed mini-pitches in Greater Columbus at Northgate Intermediate Schools, Blackburn Community Center, Sullivant Gardens Community Center, Eakin Elementary School and Scottwood Elementary School.
Along with the creation of these mini-pitches, the Crew have worked with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to provide Soccer for Success programming at local mini-pitches. Soccer for Success is the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s program proven to help children improve their physical, social, and emotional skills and overall well-being. Designed for children ages 6-14, the program is offered at little or no cost to participants and their families.
Launched in 2019 to increase attendance in the state, the Stay in the Game! Attendance Network – a partnership between the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Columbus Crew, the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and Harvard University’s Proving Ground – formed collaborations with districts and schools to provide resources created by industry experts to address chronic absenteeism.
During the 2022-2023 school year, Ohio’s chronic absenteeism rate decreased by 3.4 percent compared to 2021-2022 while Stay in the Game! Network Attendance Network partner districts outperformed statewide numbers. In total, the 17 partner districts lowered their combined chronic absenteeism by 5.2 percent, with seven individual districts declining 8.5-10.9 percent year over year.
The Stay in the Game! Attendance Network now services 45 partner school districts and more than 240,000 students in Ohio through their collective effort to positively impact attendance and engaging students.
More information on how to get involved and take the pledge to support school attendance at stayinthegame.org.
To review details on the Ohio Attendance Taskforce’s announced recommendations to improve school attendance and reduce chronic absence, visit education.ohio.gov/attendance.
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