Coach Sam’s Scholars Programs

Dear Friends, 

2020 has been a difficult year, a year that has tested our resolve. 2020 has also been a year where we have had the opportunity to demonstrate our strength, adapting and innovating our programming to meet the needs of at-risk school aged children
during this challenging time.

During the 2019-2020 academic year and before the Covid crisis:

  • We implemented our Aiming Higher program in eleven schools, more schools than ever before and reached more students, impacting 250 students, more students than ever before.
  • We coordinated a staff of 30+ educators, tutors.
  • We changed our Foundation’s name to Coach Sam’s Scholars.
  • We initiated a promising partnership with the “Say Yes” program of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) and partnered with other CMSD programs.
  • We authored a new Personal Development curriculum that enhanced our unique literacy curriculum.
  • We participated in and contributed to community events and programs.


In short, WE were rolling.

We had big plans for our April 2020 fundraiser, what we expected to be our most successful Legends fundraiser. We expected to host 500+ guests to meet and honor Cleveland Legends, Cleveland Browns, Hall of Famer, Ozzie Newsome and Northeast Ohio legendary coach, Bob Mihalik. We were confident that this would be our most entertaining and most financially successful fundraiser, ever.

By mid-March, the virus disrupted everyone’s life. We had to suspend Coach Sam’s Scholars in person school programming and postpone our Legends event.

The Covid crisis attempted to put our work on hold, but our mission, to provide educational support to at risk children, remained our guiding principle and its urgency to fulfill it, intensified. We had to ensure that our young scholars still had access to learning.

Before the end of March, we created virtual innovative programming options, and our website was running two brand new programs, Coach Sam’s Playbook & Coach Sam’s Audible.

As we rolled into summer and the uncertainty of the 2020-2021 school year loomed, it became apparent that we would need to design a range of alternatives for our Coach Sam’s Scholars programming. We remained in contact with CMSD so that we could support their remote operations to assist CMSD scholars.

The Covid crisis has taxed our resources, but it has not diminished our drive. When the public health situation permitted, we began planning a summer 2020 golf outing fundraiser. Planning any event at the time was challenging. As we considered our options, our board mobilized around a message that had been posted on our website for years: Together We Can.

This has become our rallying cry. It was the theme of our 2020 golf outing, our most well attended golf outing, and it is the theme that continues to drive us. Together, with our generous golf outing participants, we raised significant funds, enabling us to continue to deliver our programs. Together, with your support, we can further our mission and provide support to the children we serve. Together We Can Continue to Serve Our Coach Sam’s Scholars.

Please take the time to see what WE are doing TOGETHER and how YOU can help us make an immediate and lasting impact for our Coach Sam’s Scholars.

Thank you,

Sam Rutigliano

Create an Immediate and Lasting Impact

Support Coach Sam’s Scholars’ Annual Appeal


To provide educational support to at risk children through a combination of literacy, personal development, and health and fitness programs designed to develop the whole child.

Mail Your Tax Deductible Contribution to:

Coach Sam’s Scholars
23715 Mercantile Rd
Suite #217A
Beachwood, OH 44122

or send us an email at: info@innercirclefoundation.org or call (216) 223-3020.
During the 2020-21 school year, Coach Sam’s remains committed to meeting the needs of our scholars by offering virtual programs as well as going to physical sites in community centers, churches, libraries, community businesses, and more. Each week, we continue to find ways to reach more CMSD scholars who need our assistance, programming, and staff. Now more than ever, your contribution will make a difference.

The Value of Your Contribution


Fund new books each year for our students, many of which are given to the children to keep at the end of the year.


Provide support for up to 24 third grade students in each school we serve.


Sponsor one of the three innovative components of our Aiming Higher program: literacy, personal development, or health and fitness.

$1,001-$5,000 ACADEMICALLY

Help to pay staff to maintain the high level of programming provide in each school we serve.


Help expand our successful program to more schools and students who need our help.


After “School” with Cleveland Public Library

We are partnering with the Cleveland Public Library to provide Coach Sam’s programming (Aiming Higher) after school programs in a library setting. CMSD students will also receive help with their schoolwork. While we are starting as a virtual (Zoom) program, our hope is that this program will be in-person soon and that we will continue to grow our partnership with the Cleveland Public Library.


Coach Sam’s Playbook

In March of 2020, Coach Sam’s tutors and staff designed interactive and engaging lessons on our website for scholars, including dynamic videos, worksheets, vocabulary review, workouts, arts and crafts, dancing, cooking ideas, and so much more! To support student achievement, throughout the spring and summer (every week) of 2020, Coach Sam’s staff created and posted lessons for the entire CMSD and beyond community. We continue to post lessons to the Playbook throughout the 2020-2021 year.


CMSD Learning Pods

In response to CMSD Superintendent Eric Gordon’s call to action to community partners, Coach Sam’s has teamed up with the Rainey Institute, Reach Success, and the Salvation Army to deliver its programming to CMSD scholars at designated community sites. This in-person program operates Monday through Friday for 60+ CMSD students from varying schools at the Rainey Institute and at the Salvation Army. In these learning pods, Coach Sam’s team assists students (K-8) with their remote
instruction. Coach Sam’s oversees all afternoon programs (12-4 PM) and provides programming when students are not in class and when there is no school. Scholars are provided with meals, exercise, technology, and guided academic support.


Coach Sam’s Homework Help

Many students and their families have struggled to transition to remote learning. Parents and caregivers face demanding work schedules and having to assist students with virtual schedules, homework, studying, etc. is difficult and sometimes impossible. This has proven to be especially difficult for CMSD families, as many are deemed “essential workers” and are not home or able to assist. In addition, virtual connectivity has compounded this struggle. Further, many families do not have the tools to support students. Coach Sam’s Scholars has opened two drop-in centers (East and West side locations) as well as a virtual call center to assist students and their families. Coach Sam’s staff are available at these locations to assist any student with classwork or homework. We have tutors at both sites ready to assist any family that walks in!

Save this 2021 Date!

2021 Cleveland Legends Event
Thursday, May 6, 2021 

2021 CSICF Golf Outing
Monday, July 19, 2021 

*Please note: Dates are subject to change. Please check our website and social media pages for updates.

Coach Sam’s Big Mission continues, bringing dynamic, life changing literacy resources to Cleveland’s children. Our mission originated with a big idea, a fearless dream that one day Our Children Can Soar. What Do You Do With An Idea? You work to grow it, protect it, fight for it until it takes flight and becomes a reality, until you see the dream alive throughout our city. Coach Sam’s vision started with Something Beautiful, the children of Cleveland, and our mission continues to grow. Ten years ago, Coach Sam Rutigliano told our Aiming Higher students that on The Day You Begin to pursue your dream, you can make a real difference in the world. We believed then, and continue to believe that Coach Sam’s program can and will make a difference in this Great Big Life. By providing literacy resources to at risk children in the Cleveland schools, each Radiant Child in Coach Sam’s Aiming Higher Program will receive the critical literacy skills to create a promising life. This Is It! Life is a masterpiece, and each of our aspiring young scholars, the artist, creating his or her moment to soar. Join Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation to ensure that all of Cleveland’s children soar.

Meet Members of Coach Sam’s Team

Julie Baker,
Tutor M.Ed.

Tutoring with Coach Sam’s program has given me and my fellow tutors the opportunity to provide high quality literacy enrichment to Cleveland City School students. The importance of a good education is vital to the success of individual students and to the success of their community. I see amazing potential in each child I tutor. It is my goal to empower those students to discover and pursue their interests and develop a lifelong interest in reading.

Dr Linda Bradley,
Cleveland Clinic
Coach Sam’s Board Member

It’s important for me to be a part of something that is bigger than myself and improves the lives of others. Many years ago, I benefited from the generosity of countless individuals who contributed money or in kind opportunities that made it possible for me to attend summer camps or experience a semester of Saturday enrichment science classes for several years. These experiences helped me to become the physician I am today. Being a board member of Coach Sam’s allows me to give back and help others reach success. Our Annual Appeal helps raise needed funds for our Coach Sam’s kids to  exceed expectations and thrive academically by partnering in a rigorous extracurricular school program that we fund.

Electronic Merchant Systems
Principal Funder

Electronic Merchant Systems loves this town and its people. Cleveland has been our home since we began in 1988, and during that time we have supported and continue to support many charitable causes. None are so near and dear to our hearts as Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation. The teachers and tutors at the Inner Circle Foundation work directly with the future of this great city. We love seeing the smiles on the faces of the children they serve and hearing about their achievements in the classroom and beyond. EMS is happy to support such a noble cause and proud to be affiliated with the great people at Coach Sam’s Inner Circle.

Aiming Highers literacy component is designed to include “deep learning” concepts to foster the “reading to learn” skills needed in fourth grade and beyond. The program is built to develop the whole child by balancing academics with enjoyable and engaging personal development programs and physical fitness sessions. We concentrate on the whole child by engaging at risk children in three multi-faceted components to promote literacy, personal development and health and fitness as the platform upon which intellectual developments can flourish.

Aiming Higher is currently in operation in multiple Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools with plans to expand into more CMSD schools in the near future. Each program location works with approximately 24 students in the 3rd grade.

Third grade is a milestone year when third graders take the Ohio Achievement Test to be assessed for fourth grade readiness. The children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. Our Aiming Higher literacy tutoring program helps students develop academically in the areas of reading, writing, and oral communication.

Physical fitness and wellness support scholastic achievement. We help children redirect their energy by participating in team and group activities, playing collaboratively for a common purpose. Our health and fitness component:

• Reinforces an active lifestyle
• Teaches the benefits, values, and ethics of competition
• Models the social skills necessary to adapt to a group or collaborative environment
• Provides personal growth opportunities

Aiming Higher helps sharpen cognitive skills and prepare students for fourth grade academic achievement through:

  • Reading aloud and independent and textbook reading
  • Writing in response to reading
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration
  • Personalized assistance and guidance. Our literacy programming offers 72 additional hours of reading time per semester, and it occurs twice per week for 120 minutes for 24 weeks per year
  • Exposure to great literature. We include over 175 classic books ranging from 1st grade to 4th grade reading levels, aligning with and enhancing the school curriculum
  • Journaling and discussion

Through exposure to community leaders and resources, personal development helps students connect learning with their realities and opportunities. Our personal development opportunities promote health, vitality, and socialization by:

  • Connecting children with successful community role models
  • Exposure to community resources
  • Nurturing health, socialization, and coping skills

Aiming Higher is promoting economic recovery in Cleveland by facilitating the education and training of our young people. 


of 4th graders living in poverty lack the reading skills necessary for academic success.

3-6 PM

23% of Ohio children are unsupervised after school for an average of 7.43 hours per week*. Participating in the Aiming Higher program reduces the likelihood that children will engage in risky or dangerous behavior, especially during unsupervised hours after school. 

*Source: America After 3PM, 2014

What are Greater Cleveland children facing?

Nationally, children are struggling to reach adulthood prepared for higher education, employment, and stable family life. The young people of Greater Cleveland not only face the same challenges as other children and adolescents, but also face the difficulties of extreme poverty that affect every member of their families.

According to the State of Ohio Report Card, there is a 66% graduation rate for our largest school system in Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 

Catching up with Justice

Justice Cameron Gray
Justice Cameron Gray
Justice Cameron Gray
A comic by Justice
Justice Cameron Gray is a star at creating his own comic strips. He is currently a fourth grader at Jamison Elementary School in Cleveland, Ohio. Justice loves his school, his friends, and his family, and is proud  of his close connection with his three brothers and one sister.

Last year in third grade, Justice was one of our exemplary students in the Aiming Higher program through Coach Sam’s Inner Circle Foundation. When Justice first arrived at the beginning of the year, he lacked confidence in reading and writing. He wasn’t particularly excited about the prospect of reading books.

As the school year progressed, Justice developed a strong relationship with one of our tutors, Vanessa Pasiadis, who quickly recognized, embraced, and utilized his love of comic books, cartoons, and graphic novels in her lesson plans. Vanessa even organized a “comic book day” for all the students in the Aiming Higher program and brought in different genres of comics and magazines for all the kids to experience.

Vanessa recalls, “It touched my heart when I met Justice last year. His eyes were wide with wonder. He was respectful, and he expressed an eagerness to learn from day one. It was a pleasure to help him become more confident with his reading and creativity through our Aiming Higher year together.”

Recently, Vanessa jumped at the chance to meet with Justice again on the playground at Jamison Elementary to reminisce about their time spent together in the Aiming Higher Program.

“As his tutor, it felt hugely gratifying when Justice shared how he started to prefer reading to watching television after his third grade year. He remembered progressing in his reading and writing skills as we worked with his group. He also remembered having fun listening to his most memorable book, Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha.”

As a team, we are so proud and thrilled that Justice continues to thrive and pursue his passions in fourth grade and beyond!

The Value of Your Contribution 

If you contribute in the amounts set forth below, we are able to do the following: 


Fund new books each year for our students, many of which are given to the children to keep at the end of the year. 


Provide support for up to 24 third grade students in each school that we serve. 


Sponsor one of the three innovative components of our Aiming Higher program: literacy, personal development, and health and fitness. 

$1,001-$5,000 ACADEMIC ALLY

Help to pay staff to maintain the high level of programming we provide in each school we serve. 


Help expand our mission to bring our successful program to more schools and students who need our help. 

or send us an email at: info@innercirclefoundation.org or call (216) 223-3020.

Or send via mail:

Coach Sam’s Scholars
23715 Mercantile Road, Suite #217A,
Beachwood, Ohio 44122

Donate and Make a Difference

The goal of this multi-faceted program is to aid in the development of a well-rounded child by developing the necessary skills to succeed in school and beyond.
Donate Today