Coach Cleveland Gary Jr of West Park Preparatory High School

 Coach Cleveland Gary Jr of West Park Preparatory High SchoolFullSizeRender (4)

Coach Gary, what year were you born ?

I was born January 4, 1988

Who are your parents ?

Cleveland Gary Sr and Marilyn Walker

Are you married and do you have any children?

I am married and I have been married since 2012. My beautiful wife is Chrystelle Gary and my children are Cleveland Gary III, Calique Gary and step daughter Kaleah Colley.

Do you have any siblings?

Yes, we have a large family of 7 siblings.

What city did you grow up in?

I was born in Miami, Florida

What was it like growing up as the son of the Great UM running back Cleveland Gary Sr?

Oh wow, that’s a good one. It was a bit tricky but it was fun. Having a  father who was a great legend at the U, there are a lot of expectations that people expect for you to live up to and a lot of expectations of what they think you have and don’t have. But I thank God for the benefits of it now because it’s paying off and also from the great work that I’ve done by creating my own name, so it’s positive.

What High school did you attend?

I jumped around a lot. Honestly, I lived with my dad for a little while but before I moved up with him I attended Miami Columbus, my 9th grade year. My mom went away so I moved back with my dad and transferred to South Fort Senior High School. So when I got there I could not play baseball because Columbus did not releasee my transcripts. I ended up moving back home with my mom when she came back home so I attended North Miami Sr High School for one semester and then we moved down south where I attended Miami South Ridge and I finished up at South Dade Sr High Home of The Bucs.

What sports did you play in high school?

I played football and baseball. I also played AAU Basketball.

What type of student were you?

I was a good student, I made the Honor Role but once I started bouncing around to different schools my grades dropped to C’s. However, once I got settled in my Junior and Senior year my grade improve back to an A/B student.

What college did you attend?

I attended Florida Atlantic University and then I transferred to the University of Miami. I ended up finishing at Palm Beach State College where

I received a Bachelor Degree in Business and a Minor in Psychology, where I obtained that at the University of Miami.

Did you play any college football and if so what position?

Yes, I played football at FAU. I played defensive tackle. Howard Schnellenberger was my coach; coincidentally, the same coach that recruited my dad for the University of Miami.

How did Coach Shnellenberger  treat you?

Ah well, It was a different time when he coached my dad. In most part I was just thankful to have the opportunity to be able to play the game.

So you got the chance to play for the legend.

Yes Sir.

I understand that you are a teacher at West Park Preparatory School. Who is the Principal of your school?

FullSizeRender (5)Dr. Jovan H. Rembert

What type of school is West Park Prep?

We are a private Christian base school. Our academic curriculum is similar  to Broward and Miami  Dade County Public Schools.We also offer broadcasting and Business Classes for the students. As stated earlier, West Park Prep is a christian base school in which we  have Bible study classes for our students. So it’s a good family base christian school.

How do you receive funding for your school?

We receive private funding by McKay Students With Disabilities and we also receive funding from Step Up for Students. The funding is really income base and that’s how the students are able to attend. We do not charge the parents anything for private tuition. 

Would it be fare to say that West Park Prep is a need in the community?

Yes Sir, there is a need in the community for West Park Prep.

How are the academics of the students that attend West Park Prep?

The students academics are good. However, for some of our football players that were not making the grades in public school, it is a last chance for them to bring their grades up and to be able to continue playing high school football. It is our objective to give them the tools that they need to be successful and hopefully they will be able to continue their football dreams.

Does the school have a football program?

Yes, we do have a football program. The program is up and running, this will be our second year.

How many students participate in the football program?

This year we have a roster  around 48 to 50 players. Last year we were struggling in numbers of players. if I am not mistaken,  we averaged around 15 to 20 players.

So, what made the difference from last year to this year?

Well what made the difference, two things took place. First, the word got out in the community that West Park is not only a high school but  now we have a football program. Number two, the school across the way went down. Therefore, we had an influx of their coaching staff and some of their players that joined our team. We are making it work. We have a full staff now. Last year I was the only coach on the sideline and that was a bit difficult. Early in the season Coach T, Coach Taylor and Coach Jarret McDonald started out with me. However, they had to stop coaching and I am grateful for them starting out with me.  Never the less, it’s a big upgrade.

How many coaches do you have this year?

Right now, I have a staff of 5  Coach Charles McRae Jr.,  Coach Pete Peterson, Coach Chris Armstrong,  Coach Mike and my wonderful  Football Assistant Ms. Jasmine McCoy who is also the Assistant Principal of the school. We have one more coach coming in to coach our offensive line and that’s about it. 

When I first got the job last year. I had only two weeks to prepare for the season. I told the school staff, if you give me some time I can show you what I really can do.

What was your football record last year?

Last year we went 0 and 5. We had two games that we had to cancel due to the hurricane. Another game we had to cancel against IMG and that was due to injuries and not having enough players. Also around this time one of my players was shot and killed. So it was pretty tough during this time for our team.

How many games are you scheduled to play?

We are scheduled to play 8 to 9 games.

Who are those teams?

West Minster Academy, Coral Shores, Coral Springs Charter, Pahokee just to name a few our schedule is not complete yet.

What type of exposure do your team receives as far as coaches coming down to look at your players?

I am glad that you ask that question. On March 7 Coach Randy Shannon from the University of Central Florida visited with us to take a look at some of our players. I also met with University of Miami’s Coach Stacey and Coach Mark Richt during their mini football scrimmage. Coach Richt spoke to me about having some of our players participate in the summer camp football program. So these are two of the schools that are looking at us. Some of our football players can play on a D1 level.

How does the football program affect the students and the community?

The program helps a lot because the kids need something positive to do. People don’t understand that sports do a lot for the kids in the community, it’s not just about playing professionally. Sports brings different aspects to their lives; between mental toughness, challenges and being able to face adversities. Football brings a different attitude out of these kids. It provIMG_0305ides them with something to do. Since adding some of the kids to the football program you can see the changes in their behavior and attitude. You see it, you see their conversation changing from other things that have no importance; to now I am a football player and they’re coming up to me saying Coach I am ready for football practice. Just their attitude and now they understand that I have something to do that I can look forward to doing. It doesn’t involve me just going home sitting around watching TV or going outside getting into trouble.

I would like to say that you and your Coaches are role models. A lot of the kids do not have fathers at home and you are a father figure. You provide discipline, guidance and a host of other positive concepts about life that these boys need to know. I think that you Coaches are doing an excellent job in seeing that the kids are in a positive environment. Most importantly, you are preparing them for the future.    

What educational programs have you provided to your players so that they can become student athletes ?

One program that we have started providing for the students is online tutoring. We have Miss Valerie Tyler who tutor our students through a government funded program. Also, some Teachers and students come into the school to provide tutoring services to the students that need help in any subject. In addition we have Miss Natalie Simpson, who comes in weeks in advance to prepare the students for  the  ACT and SAT Test.  One of my student Jakari Jones has been taking the prep class. When we had our parent meeting his mother noticed that her son has been making positive gains. She was very pleased with how his test scores had improved.

What can the community do to assist you in achieving these goals?

Honestly, only the community really knows what they can do. I say that because, we’ve had some people come out taking pictures during the games and they would say to me Coach thank you and I would say for what. The parents would say because, without your football program our kids would have to go to different schools to play football.  So with us having a high school sports program and a football program the community is excited and over joyed. Our practices look as if they are scrimmages or if we are having jamborees. They are surrounding the park and the fields. The only thing that I would ask the community to do, is to sit back and really observe and look and see how they too can help this team. This football team  does not have a weight room for the program. So you have to ask yourself how are we  developing these kids to become bigger, faster and stronger. Some of these parents have great jobs and some of them have great resources in this community. Any support can help us so that  we and this community can grow.

What measures have you taken to improve your  team in 2018?

Well, the first thing is implementing discipline. I noticed last year that the kids didn’t have discipline. If you have a team of 60 and you have no discipline or structure you are going to have chaos. This year the kids have a better understanding that if we are going to be successful as a team we must have discipline and structure and without the two we are not going to win.

Last year the kids didn’t take it seriously because we had only 15 players and a small practice field behind the school. However, this year we have a practice field. With the generosity of Mary Saunders Park, they have allowed us to use their fields for football practice. You know that’s a blessing. So that’s one way that the community is helping us. These things have put us in a different perspective with the students and with the parents.

So they say, “if you build it, they will come.”

That’s what it looks like and I’m just staying positive about it.

Who provides your uniforms?

For right now we are looking for sponsorship to help us with our uniforms. We are looking for two sets of uniforms. We currently, as a team are doing fundraising to raise the money for our uniforms. Riddle has offered us an amazing deal for helmets and shoulder pads per player.  The cost would be between $250 and $300. We are hoping that we can receive funding from our community leaders, business owners and anyone else that wishes to help us make this program successful.

What type of fundraising are you doing?

We are doing cookie, candy and doughnut sales and if they go out and do well with the fundraising this will help reduce the cost of participating in the summer camp football programs. It’s a great teaching tool that nothing is given to you. It teaches them that you must work for the things that you want in life.

To piggy back on the fundraising, I also have a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization which is called A.M.B Outreach LLC. and for anyone or organization who wishes to donate funds to our organization we would be grateful for your support. All donations are tax deductible.   

What is it that keeps you here as a teacher and a coach?

The kids, one thing I want people to understand about me is do not judge a book by its cover. Please don’t do that. Some of these kids have younger siblings and some are not only raising themselves, but they are raising their brothers and sisters. So that’s what keeps me here at West Park, that’s what motivates me when I see some of these young ladies and young men, these young Queens and young Kings. I want to teach  them that not only is there a better way, there is hope. If I can help change one or two of their lives then I’ve done well; there is an old saying that my mom used to say, you are not Jesus and you can’t save everybody. But saving one, two, three, four, or five kids is better  than saving nobody.    IMG_5589

Coach you are in a great position to do so. You are in this position where the kids will listen to you and once they come to you and you show them that love and respect there isn’t anything that they wouldn’t do for you and they will believe that they can achieve. You are  very smart and intelligent. You are the role model that these kids need to see, a strong black family man that’s educated.

That’s the next step into getting the FiveThousand Role Model Program of Excellence here for some of our young men.We are working on trying to have that program apart of our school.

Coach Gary, I want to thank you for allowing me to come into your work place and share your passion that you have for your students and players. It has been my pleasure. I look forward to you and your team having a great 2018 football season.

Worrell C. Troup

  Sports Elite Mag

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