By Christine Bryant
Football was everything to Cordell Menix. He felt at home when he took the field, and he was good at it.
After playing at Jackson Middle School, he began preparing to play at the next level at Grove City High School. But then his mother, Cinda, discovered the program was pay to play and prepared herself for the heartbreaking conversation she would need to have with her son.
She didn’t have the funds to cover the costly fees.
“Having the coaches in his life was so important because his father hadn’t been in his life for years, so football filled that empty spot also,” she said. “It broke my heart.”
One of the coaches told her about a program called Success Beyond the Classroom that would enable her son to fulfill his dream of playing thanks to funds raised by the community.
“It saved not only the day, but all four years,” Menix said. “He received SBC his freshman and sophomore years until injuries took him out of the game, but not out of football.”
The coaches, who got to know him during those first two years, allowed Cordell to film and assist the trainer during his final two high school years so that he could stay involved in the sport he loved.
For Cordell, who graduated in 2015, it was an opportunity that allowed him to meet mentors and shape his future. He is currently entering the U.S. Navy.
“SBC gave me a chance to play a sport I love and make deep lasting friendships with some wonderful people,” he said.
It’s students like Cordell that Success Beyond the Classroom volunteers and donors strive to help, but now the nonprofit organization is seeking the help of the community.
Because of its significant impact on the student population in South-Western City Schools, the organization is working to create sustainability so that future classes will receive assistance as well, said Mary Mulvany, a board member with the group. To do so, the organization will host a pasta dinner fundraiser next month in hopes of repeating its success from a similar fundraiser held last year.
“This pasta dinner is our only fundraiser,” Mulvany said. “Without it, in a few years we will be out of funds.”
After a school levy failure in 2009, the district cancelled extra-curricular activities for the school year, including sports. That fall, however, voters approved a smaller $7.4-mill levy – reinstating sports in the district, but also instituting pay-to-play.
That’s when a group of concerned residents came together to form Success Beyond the
Classroom – a non-profit that provides financial assistance to qualified SWCS students in middle and high school who wish to participate in athletics or marching band.
To receive assistance, students apply for scholarships that will provide partial funding of their athletic or marching band participation fees. A panel of community members select the recipients based on financial need, student essays and other criteria.
As of February this year, the foundation has awarded 2,456 scholarships for a total of more than $183,000.
A few years ago, the foundation’s funding got a boost from a well-known Hollywood actor and director thanks to a documentary that featured students’ challenges after the district initially cancelled sports and extra-curricular activities in 2009.
In October of that year, HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumble” covered the loss of sports and other extracurricular activities within the South-Western City School District.
“Every year for the next couple of years they would call me to ask how the community was doing,” Mulvany said. “They did another story in 2012, and Tyler Perry caught that edition and called me. He liked the story and what he saw, and he flew out to meet me and made a donation to the foundation. That got us off life support for a while, but that money is gone.”
Now organizers are hoping a special event will help sustain the organization and provide scholarships for thousands more.
The pasta dinner fundraiser catered by Carfagna’s will take place from 4 to 7:30 p.m. April 30 at Central Crossing High School. It will include raffles, a bake sale and silent auction. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for kids 4 to 12 years old. Dinner includes pasta with meatballs, salad, rolls and drink.
Tickets will be available at the door, though they can be purchased in advance by emailing email@example.com.
“We hope the community sees this as an easy way to support very deserving children while enjoying a good meal at the same time,” Mulvaney said.
For more information, go to successbeyondtheclassroom.wordpress.com.