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An unforgettable surprise for outgoing CMSD CEO and mentor Eric Gordon

As the deadline nears for recruiting College Now mentors, there's no more fitting story to tell than how Gordon quietly changed the lives of some Cleveland students

CLEVELAND — During the month of March, 3News has recruited volunteer mentors to pair with college-bound students, to give them the support they need to succeed.

Our final Mentor Monday story of 2023 is a special one.

It’s about Eric Gordon, the outgoing superintendent of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.  Did you know, behind the scenes he is a caring mentor to many students? Recently four of those students had a surprise for him.

Gordon arrived at WKYC Studios thinking he was going to do an interview about Mentor Monday. It’s a program that he and WKYC’s Margaret Bernstein expanded, so much so, that in the last four years alone, almost 600 people stepped up to become CMSD mentors.

When he stepped into Studio B to a round of applause and hugs from well-wishers, he realized something else was in the works.

The interview was really a celebration of Gordon’s impact on the mentoring program.

The first to join Gordon and 3News Anchor Christi Paul on stage was Martell Jackson. Jackson was 17 when he met Gordon. The East High School graduate now holds four degrees and works at Case Western Reserve University. 

Jackson says Gordon was instrumental to his growth.   

“He has provided me with a lot of reassurance, a lot of guidance. He uplifted me when I doubted myself throughout my life. Eric spent countless nights helping me study for the OGT and gave me a tutor. He gave me the hope and insight to believe in myself so I could pass the test. And I eventually overcame my anxiety,” Jackson said.

Students Gordon mentored just kept appearing. Logan Williams, a student at Cleveland School of the Arts, budding actress and philanthropist was next.   

She told Gordon, “I know if I had any show, and you could make it, you were there. If I had any award ceremony you would be there. You just really gave every student at CMSD a voice. If we felt we didn’t have one, you were there at the parent meetings. You were at the student meetings. You were there at any meeting. You are the greatest mentor I’ve ever had. You are like a male version of Oprah.”

Laughs mixed with more hugs and more tears.

Another of Gordon’s mentees is Matt Moody, who sent a video for the occasion. He is busy in Texas, working for a school district there, before he reaches his goal of coming back to Cleveland to take over Gordon’s job someday.

“I wanted to come on today to say ‘thank you’ to Eric Gordon and personally wanted to share a quote, one of my favorite quotes by Steven Spielberg. That quote goes, “the delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” Seven years ago in 2016, I stood on the stage of John Hay High School, and I turned around and I said, with all due respect, Mr. Gordon, I will one day be gunning for your title. My goal in education is to become the Superintendent CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District with your mentorship. That still frames true today. I appreciate you more than you know. I love you more than you know. And I can’t wait to see you soon,” Moody said.

Brinden Harvey followed, in person, walking to sit next to the man who he says, “saved his life.”  Harvey, a graduate of John Hay High School and Baldwin Wallace University, now works for CMSD. He overcame a hostile family situation, homelessness, and got through college. Harvey says it was Eric Gordon who made the difference.  

“You changed my life. You gave me a chance even when I didn’t think I had one. When I dreamed of going to New York, you were right there for me. When I had a dream, you kept believing in me. You treat everyone with that same purse love. And that’s what I honor. Never let the world take away having a good heart,” Harvey said.   

Eric Gordon’s legacy of mentoring is this; simply being present is the real gift.

“Let people into your life. All these young people are with me because we chose to be. The reason we are still together is because it’s so much more than just a simple piece of graduating high school or navigating college. Those are complex enough, but you don’t do it without forming truly loving relationships. And all you have to do, is be there,” Gordon said.

Eric Gordon will be stepping down as CMSD CEO at the end of this school year. Would you believe he has already signed up to become a mentor next year, as part of our Mentor Monday campaign? Gordon says he wasn’t to fill his new found free time with something meaningful to him and to him, there is nothing more meaningful than guiding a young person to success.

Through April 1st, 3News is recruiting volunteers to mentor students receiving scholarships from the Say Yes and College Now programs.

To be a volunteer, all that is required is that you have a college degree and pass a background check. It's not a heavy time commitment – mentors check in with their mentees twice a month on an online platform system and meet up in person three times a year. We'd love to have you sign up. Learn more by going to collegenowgc.org.


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