Jonathan Ogden: A Giant Of A Man With A Generous Heart

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If you’re anything like me, when you hear the name Jonathan Ogden, a few cool facts immediately come to your mind. He was the 1st ever draft pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, and became an integral part of our SUPER BOWL winning team! Eleven times this amazing athlete represented the Ravens in the Pro-Bowl.  Even more exciting, he just might be selected for the 2013 class of inductees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But, sadly, one of the most impressive facts about JO has been totally neglected by the media. As a result, most fans, including myself, had no idea the inspiring work he has been doing since 1998 with young athletes through the Jonathan Ogden Foundation.  It’s about time we change that for him. Don’t you think Ravens fans?!

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with a key member of his foundation staff, academic coach, Ms. Kelley Bagdasarian. Over buffalo chicken salads and quite a few laughs, I was able to get some real insight into all of the hard work Jonathan, Kelley and the whole foundation team have been putting into the academic success of young men/women athletes at Patterson High School.

After being drafted in 1996, Jonathan (with a little nudging from his mom) was determined to make a difference in the city that made his NFL dream come true. Knowing that teens from the inner city have so many obstacles to success, he decided to focus his time, energy and resources on helping as many of them as he could, hands-on.

But how do you keep kids focused on getting good grades, graduating, and going on to college while still producing on the field or gymnasium? Enter the Jonathan Ogden Club and Academic Coach Kelley.

Patterson High School students who are active participants in athletics, JV or Varsity, 9th-12th grade may sign up to become a member of JO’s club.  But along with this membership also comes mandatory responsibilities. All grades must be maintained throughout the year.  Failing to pass even one class will result in dismissal. Each student must also remain an upstanding citizen which includes participating in community service projects such as the yearly canned food drive.   Lastly, in coordination with Graceland Park Elementary school, each member must serve as a mentor, reading to the children, tutoring them and/or teaching sports skills.

So, why would teenagers commit to these terms? Well, because Jonathan Ogden makes it more than worth their time and effort.  His foundation pays for UNLIMITED tries at getting their best score on the SAT’s as well as SAT tutoring provided by Kelley. This may not seem like much, but taking this test is expensive! And as Ms. Bagdasarian explained to me, JO club members average 200 points higher than the Patterson general population.  How impressive!

So after a few attempts, the students are happy with the scores. But, to what colleges can they apply? JO has that covered, as well. Every year, the club takes 3-4 trips to neighboring colleges where they are given a private tour. Recently, they have visited Towson, Howard, and the University of Delaware, just to name a few.

To thank these dedicated young people for all of their hard work during the year, Jonathan also throws a Christmas Party at M&T Bank Stadium. Of course, there is food and gifts, but there’s also flag football on the Ravens field.

So, how can you help JO continue to make a difference in the lives of the Patterson High School athletes? It is easy as calling for a pizza. Call Papa John’s and Order the JO Special of 2 large one topping pizzas, and a 2-liter for just $21.00 because $1.00 from every sale goes to his great cause.

For those who can donate a little more, Jonathan has yearly Poker, Boxing and Golf tournaments which all raise money for his Foundation. Just visit his website for event dates, prices and detailed information.

Ok, Ravens fans, now that you know how Jonathan is helping some special kids succeed academically, it’s time for you to do your part. As new events are scheduled, you can be sure I will bring you all of the information you need to get involved. Let’s start with this year’s canned food drive in November by making it his most successful one yet. Stay tuned for details…..

Thank you, Kelley, for making time for me and the BmoreChix readers. Keep up the great work!