Saving Students with The American Spirit

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Ted Ginn Sr, is changing lives both on and off the football field.
CBS

For coach Ted Ginn Sr., history was moments away. His Glenville High School football team was the first from Cleveland ever to make it to the state championship.

His boys were leading with just minutes left when they gave up a touchdown, and got nipped by a point - enduring an emotional loss.

But the way Ted Ginn sees it, this was his biggest win yet, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"The perception in the community was 'well, they didn't win a state title,'" he said. "But we did - because we went to a place nobody had ever been."

Taking kids where they've never been is Ginn's religion. This football coach at Glenville also runs a public school that bears his name - Ginn Academy. It's an alternative all-boys high school on Cleveland's hard luck Eastside. Some 290 of the city's toughest cases handpicked by Ginn and the school district. Nearly one third of them are from his Glenville football program.

"Do you have any kids who other schools would call 'the worst student' in school," Axlerod asked.

"Yes, probably 75 percent of them," Ginn replied.

In the three years since the school opened, not one Ginn kid has flunked out. Never mind that Ginn doesn't even have a college degree. Three years ago he was not only a football coach, he was a full time security guard - when he badgered the school board into giving him a chance with students no one else could reach.

The city provided a vacant school building and assigned him two dozen teachers to help instill the idea that life is more than just blocking and tackling. Each student is assigned a counselor available 24/7. His goal? Constant contact with his kids.

Ron Whaley, a student, said without Ginn he'd be "dead or in jail."

Another student, Aundrey Walker is a 6-foot, 5-inches, 330-pound offensive tackle for Glenville. He hopes to play in the NFL. But he's got a Ginn-required backup plan.

"My major is forensic science and criminology, so I'm going to be a forensic scientist," Walker said.

With no degree, Ginn can't be the principal. So the district made him executive director. But make no mistake - his name's on the front of the school, and his approach creates the success inside it. He attributes his success to "love, passion" and "understanding."

This spring, the school will graduate its first senior class. "State Champion" would have been a nice title, but there's one that matters even more to Ginn: high school graduate.

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    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning" and other CBS News broadcasts.