|Ex-Cleveland Brown Braylon Edwards hosts lunch for scholarship winners
|CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Braylon Edwards didn’t drop the ball on his scholarship program for Cleveland students after the Browns traded him to the New York Jets last October.
The wide receiver returned to town Saturday to host his third spring achievement lunch at Cuyahoga Community College for the 100 high school juniors in his Advance 100 Scholarship Program and their parents.
"Actually, it’s Advance 100 but there are 101 in it," he said with a smile. "We cheated."
If that was cheating, no one minded -- no more than they minded lunch threatening to turn into dinner while each student was recognized by administrators from Tri-C, Cleveland schools and the Braylon Edwards Foundation.
"The program really helps me a lot," said Kaleb Jarvis, from Collinwood High School. "It allows me to have peace of mind that I’ll be able to go to college."
Kaleb will, in fact, attend the University of Cincinnati next fall as one of the nine students in the program who are graduating a year early. Another is Kitaya Southivong, from John Hay High School, who is heading to Ohio State University.
"It gave me something to believe in," she said of the program. "And it made me believe you have to give something back to your community."
"He’s a great guy doing this out of the goodness of his heart," Kaleb added. "Nobody asked him to do it, and nobody tells about it. More athletes should do this."
The ovation that greeted Edwards in the Tri-C student center belied the negative public image he had with the Browns, for dropped passes and inconsistent play on the field and for judgment issues off it. In January, he pleaded no contest in Cleveland Municipal Court to aggravated disorderly conduct for punching a party promoter outside a downtown nightclub, days before the Browns traded him.
Also in January, he played in the AFC Championship Game with the Jets.
"I had a good time," he said in a brief interview. "[Head coach] Rex Ryan makes everything fun.
"The teams that are winning are consistent," he said. With the Browns, "we just never got together as a team."
He noted that he started the scholarship initiative in 2007, the year he set Browns records for receiving yards and touchdowns and was voted a Pro Bowl starter.
"And it was the year I spent the most time with the kids," he said. "I was blessed."
The students applied as eighth graders with essays, questionnaires and interviews. School officials winnowed a group of 1,100 finalists down to 175 for final decisions by the Edwards Foundation, which is based in Detroit and headed by the player’s mother, Malesa Plater.
Each student has to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average, do 15 hours of community service yearly and attend monthly workshops on a variety of topics, from financial responsibility to interview etiquette, at Tri-C’s Metro Campus.
Each will receive $10,000 for college from Edwards, who pledged $1 million in scholarships. Students said the foundation has provided other gifts including laptop computers and shoes.
Plater said the foundation will stay in touch with them through college. It might try a similar scholarship program in New Jersey, she said, but next year’s spring luncheon will mark graduation and be the last.
"We’re going to have a surprise for them," Edwards said. "And I’ll be here."
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