Game Changers Summit

WARREN — As Michael Engram attempted to put together the fifth annual GameChangers GC-360 Summit, he was faced with plenty of challenges.

With the pandemic ruining any chance of bringing dozens of student-athletes together, as the event has done each year, Engram realized this year’s seminar would be drastically different than others.

He also realized it might be the most important.

“This, of course, is a year unlike none other,” said Engram, the founder of GameChangers. “With COVID, we don’t have sports as much. In the absence of sports, you get to peel back some of the layers — like what else is going on with this person’s life? What are they doing outside of basketball, football and things of that nature? I believe that’s when things like what we’re doing now really shines through.”

The GC-360 Summit, which is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., was created by Engram to help high school student-athletes prepare for the next level — of life more so than sports.

The 1996 Warren G. Harding graduate wants young men and women to understand the different obstacles they could be facing — on and off the field. The conference discusses how to balance finances, use social-media etiquette, maintain health and wellness, present proper job interview techniques and learn business strategies, among other topics.

And it’s not just Engram sharing this wisdom. A former football player at Harding, Engram brings in pro and college athletes along with executives and professionals in all different fields to cover an array of subjects. This year, Chicago Bears offensive lineman and Harding grad James Daniels will speak along with former MLB draft pick Austin Byler, WNBA player Tyasha Harris and track and field star Brittany Brown, who placed second in the 2019 world championships in the 200-meter race. Those are just a few.

“I’m super glad of the diversity we have, all across the board if you look at the panel, in respects to different sports,” Engram said. “Last year we had (NFL players) Derek Rivers and Darrin Hall, and it was kind of just football. This year, we were able to connect with someone from the WNBA as well as the NFL, track and major league baseball. That’s what I love because it allows us to really go out there in the field (of different sports).”

The pro athletes will be one of three panels presented.

There’s a business panel with speakers from different job fields — a pilot, an assistant athletic director, a branch manager at a mortgage company and a vice president of a major advertising and public relations company.

The final group will be made up of college athletes, including a few from the Mahoning Valley. Dayshanette Harris, a former Ursuline High School star basketball player now competing at Pitt, will speak along with football player Keevon Harris (LaBrae High School and now at Ohio University), track and field runner Aisha Jackson (Warren G. Harding and now Central Michigan) and Kaleb Romero, a four-time state wrestling champion at Mechanicsburg High School who now competes at Ohio State.

They will discuss much more than sports, Engram said, but athletics will play a role, just as they did in teaching many of the panelists some of important attributes that carried them to their current status.

“If you look at even some of the professional athletes that have gone on and used their platforms, especially now with social justice and voting and so many other things, that’s made from the sport,” Engram said. “That’s character. That goes to your DNA of who you are. So, my hope is that before any of our high schoolers ascend to adulthood, or playing sports at the collegiate level or the professional level, that they make sure that their core is right. Your core is where it matters.”

Because of the pandemic, the athletes will be speaking virtually through YouTube. Students will be able to ask questions live to participate and interact with the panelists. Those interested can find out more information by visiting GameChangers’ Instagram page: GCthenewathlete.

The interactive medium was the only way Engram could hold this year’s event, one that means a lot to him. He said former Harding football coach Phil Annarella, who passed away suddenly last year while holding the same position at Austintown Fitch High School, is a big reason for his passion toward this event and guiding today’s youth.

He hopes he can make a similar impact as Annarella.

“To me, I believe that it’s incumbent upon our generation, the 30-to-40-year-olds, to really continue the legacy of a lot of good core values that we were taught growing up — that hard work, that discipline,” he said. “For me, I was very fortunate enough to have a great mentor in coach Annarella before he passed. I’m not everywhere, but I can definitely say that there’s not a lot of men like that. For me to make sure that I can echo some of those same sentiments as far as the hard work, discipline, character — that’s what I want to make sure that we’re continuing to push.”

Game Changers Summit

Game Changers’ annual leadership summit for high school student-athletes will be a virtual event this year, livestreaming from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube under @GCTheNewAthlete.

The event helps to prepare high school athletes to compete at the next level through panel discussions led by current and former professional and college athletes, and by business executives, all of whom were athletes.

Speakers this year include Warren G. Harding graduate James Daniels of the Chicago Bears; Dr. Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female assistant coach; professional track and field athlete Brittany Brown a silver medalist at the World Championships in the 200-meter dash; and former minor league baseball player and current motivational speaker Austin Byler.

Among topics discussed will be Money Matters, Recruitment / Inteviews, Health and Wellness, Building Your Brand, NCAA / Student Development and Entrepreneurship.

For more information, call Game Changers at 330-529-9808 or go to


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Game Changers Summit

Game Changers’ annual leadership summit for high school student-athletes will be a virtual event this year, livestreaming from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube under @GCTheNewAthlete.The event helps to prepare high school athletes to compete at the next level through panel discussions led by current and former professional athletes, business executives and college athletes.

Speakers this year include Warren G. Harding graduate James Daniels of the Chicago Bears; Dr. Jen Welter, the NFL’s first female assistant coach, and former minor league baseball player Austin Byler.

Among topics discussed will be Money Matters, Recruitment / Inteviews, Health and Wellness, Building Your Brand, NCAA / Student Development and Entrepreneurship.

For more information, call Game Changers at 330-529-9808 or go to

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Game Changers Summit

Michael Engram joined us for WFMJ Today to preview the event. News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Game Changers Summit

The combine is not just on-field drills and workouts but a full day of panel discussions, breakout sessions, a social lunch and appearances from former and current collegiate and professional athletes.

A local non-profit organization is working to show local high school student-athletes that leadership goes past the field.

Game Changers is a non-profit organization founded by Warren native Michael Engram in 2013. Engram moved back to Warren from Hawaii after seeing the change that struck the Mahoning Valley.

Engram said the job loss in the area and the hardships that local kids go through motivated him to want to help and provide mentoring to student-athletes.

The organization has impacted over 4,300 students and awarded $30,000 in scholarships. Two scholarship winners have also went to Las Vegas to attend the ESPY awards.

Game Changers is hosting the GC-360 Leadership and Player Development Combine on June 29 at Youngstown State University and it is not a traditional football camp.

The combine is not just on-field drills and workouts but a full day of panel discussions, breakout sessions, a social lunch and appearances from former and current collegiate and professional athletes.

The combine starts at 8:30 a.m. with a keynote interview and three different panels highlighting the impact athletics has on life after players hang up the cleats.

One panel will feature collegiate athletes from YSU discussing the process of recruiting and the transition to college life and athletics.

A second panel features local business men and women that are former athletes. Engram noted the importance of showing young athletes that even if they do not make pro leagues or play college sports, they can still be successful in other industries and use skills learned on the field in their career paths.

A final panel will feature former NFL players including Howland High School, Michigan and Alliance of American Football standout De’Veon Smith, along with former NFL players J’Vonne Parker and Byron Wilson Jr.

The combine will also touch on social media etiquette, recruiting and academic standards and financial literacy.

Following the panel discussions, attendees and speakers will have the opportunity to connect and talk during a social lunch.

After lunch the student-athletes will take the field for breakout sessions before moving on to the WATTS Center to participate in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump and 3 cone drills.

Tickets for the event are $35 during the early bird period that ends June 1. Ticket prices bump up to $55 dollars after June 1, but the promo code WFMJ will lower the price back to $35.

Game Changers Summit

AUSTINTOWN — A new scholarship has been established and named in honor of longtime coach in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Phil Annarella.

A tribute was held for Annarella at a recent Austintown Fitch High School football game honoring his many contributions as a football coach and teacher. Annarella died in June.

Michael Engram, president/founder of Game Changers, said he knew Annarella and wanted to establish the scholarship to honor all he did.

To honor the legacy of Annarella, Engram named the scholarship “The Phil Annarella Jr. Leadership Scholarship.”

“There are key people who have supported me during the building of Game Changers, and coach Annarella is among those names. I believe in giving honor where honor is due, and naming the Game Changers scholarship after coach is the best way I know how to pay homage until we come up with an even more distinguished award. He was a leader among leaders,” Engram said.

“This particular scholarship means a lot to my family. Mike knew my dad and has a wonderful program. My dad really believed in going beyond the athletic side of this with academics and community service. He also focuses on character building. He praised the students for everything they did both academically and athletically. He would want the scholarship even without his name on it to help students,” said Annarella’s daughter, Melissa Annarella Faluhelyi of Stow, formerly of Niles, who attended the event with her brother, Philip Annarella of Girard.

Game Changers is a charitable organization focused on character and leadership development among high school athletes.

Engram, who graduated from Warren G. Harding High School in 1996, said he remembers the lessons that he learned as a student athlete under Annarella.

“Looking back over my time playing football, it’s a blur now. And although I don’t remember every word that was said, or play that was taught, I definitely remember how Coach Annarella instilled discipline and tradition into our mantra that year. And that’s what I appreciate most — the values that were taught to us as young men,” Engram said.

He said in 2015, Annarella was one of Game Changers’ first panelists in their inaugural year of the Leadership Combine at YSU. From 2015 to 2019, Annarella would sent 25-plus of his Fitch Falcolns to the event.

“This was the type of man he was. He didn’t just talk about it, he made sure that he followed through and showed his support until he wasn’t here to do it anymore. He valued any and all things that would make us players productive young men in society,” Engram said.

High school athletes earning a minimum 3.0 GPA and recording a minimum of 50 hours of community service over the 2019-20 school year will have a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship and trip to the 2020 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles.

Athletes who are interested in applying for the Phil Annarella, Jr. Leadership Scholarship and trip to the 2020 ESPYS must download the Game Changers App (GC360) on Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Athletes can start today by tracking their grades and community service hours. Any school administrators looking to bring the Game Changer’s program to their school can go to and click on GC Chapters, under programs, or contact Engram at 330-529-9808.

Game Changers Summit

The fourth annual Game Changers Leadership Combine was held June 29 at Youngstown State University.

The Leadership Combine is a full day of character development and leadership talks by college athletes, business professionals and current or former professional athletes to high school athletes. This year’s attendees included athletes from Austintown Fitch, Hubbard, John F. Kennedy, Lakeview, Valley Christian and Warren G. Harding.

The event is coordinated by Michael Engram, Game Changers founder and executive coach.

“Our young men need to understand the moral value of keeping their word and committing to bettering themselves: mentally, physically, and spiritually,” Engram said about the reasons for the event “No one makes it through life without being influenced in one way or another. My hope is that Game Changers provided and continues to provide a positive platform with the Leadership Combine.”

Engram honored former Harding, Niles and Fitch head coach Phil Annarella, who passed away this year.

Special to Tribune Chronicle This year’s attendees included athletes from several Mahoning Valley schools.

“For me it is important to give honor where honor is due and with coach Annarella he was a man of his word. For the past five years he not only made a verbal commitment to support me with Game Changers, he also made sure to commit 25-30 athletes each year to help them grow as men.

“Commitment with him didn’t have an expiration — it’s been 20 years since I strapped on some cleats for him — and he still kept his word. Not many do.”

The day also included a panel of college athletes from YSU, Case Western Reserve and Baldwin Wallace, along with a professional athlete panel which included LeShun Daniels, Derek Rivers and Darrin Hall.

A host of business professionals who were athletes and went on to become successful in various fields also addressed the young athletes. The Business-Pro Panel was sponsored by John Perdue and his wife, franchise owners of McDonald’s in the Valley.

Special to Tribune Chronicle Game Changers founder and executive coach Michael Engram addresses the young athletes.

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Game Changers Summit

WARREN — Michael Engram had a good reason to start the Game Changers organization. He also had good reason not to start it.

He’s glad he went with the former.

Engram is the founder of Game Changers, a leadership and character development program focused on athletes. The 1996 Warren G. Harding graduate knows the pitfalls and problems that can befall high school students and how circumstances can make them hard to avoid.

“My parents, they split when I was 13,” said Engram, who also lost his brother and grandfather not long afterward. “I always tried to find male-driven organizations, which is why I put myself in football. I just wanted to be around the guys. …

“As you get older, you start having questions about your manhood, in respect to how to tie a tie, how to change a tire, all that kind of stuff. So I’ve always had a gap in my life from not having the presence of a consistent male figure. As you’re in high school and you’re going through your years, you don’t really see those gaps until you look back and say, ‘Darn, I don’t know how to do X, Y and Z.’ “

Engram has spent most of his adult life trying to help educate kids on aspects that can often be overlooked.

His organization is putting on an event known as GC-360. Now in its fifth consecutive year, GC-360 blends a number of topics as well as some sports-related drills. The main focus is on helping students understand concepts such as social media etiquette, the truth about scholarships and student loans, the basics of finances and business savvy, along with social and emotional intelligence.

Engram said it’s a 21st-century way of reaching students.

“With Game Changers, we really don’t focus on athletics,” he said. “They’ve got a coach there that takes care of that. I’m more concerned about kids doing something wrong, like posting something they shouldn’t on Instagram, and now their scholarship is gone. …

“We go a little bit deeper with the financial literacy, admissions and how your grades equal to scholarship dollars,” he added. “Like, if you’re on the fence with a 2.9 (GPA). Well, guess what, if you had a 3.0, maybe you could’ve got another $3,000 in scholarship money. Most of them don’t know that. I know when I was growing up, when my parents told me to get good grades, it was just like, ‘Well, that’s what parents are supposed to do.’ On the flip side, if I would’ve known to compute my GPA to dollars, it would’ve turned into something else.”

Speakers from all walks of life will participate in the event, which goes from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 29 at Youngstown State University.

The event will include current and former pro athletes, business owners and professionals from several different fields. Engram also said current YSU athletes speak on different topics, such as leaving home for school and how to get through the difficulty of being homesick.

“They can talk about how, ‘I came from out of state, got homesick, but I had a family within my team and that really helped me out,’ “ Engram explained. “It’s for those kids who are thinking about going out of state (for college).”

The event also incorporates times and measurements for the 40-yard dash, vertical leap and the three-cone drill. Breakfast, lunch and a T-shirt are included as well.

The program is for boys and girls. Registration is $35 for those who sign up by Saturday. Cost is $55 from June 2-9. Visit to register, or for more information.

Game Changers Summit

WARREN — Two recent high school graduates will be attending the ESPYS this week in Los Angeles after receiving $1,000 scholarships from Game Changers.

Gabby Hartzell, a Howland High School graduate who will attend Baldwin Wallace College for accounting and to play softball, and Greg Valent, a John F. Kennedy High School graduate who will attend Franklin and Marshall College to study business and play football, were presented the scholarships for completing 50 hours of community service and their academic achievements. Hartzell, daughter of Scott and Wendy Hartzell, has 4.1 GPA and Valent, son of Greg and Tricia Valent, has a 3.5 GPA.

Michael Engram, founder and executive director of Game Changers, said this year, Game Changers awarded $4,500 in college scholarships and an additional $5,000 in awards. The Game Changer’s Scholarship and ESPY Initiative award winners are Hartzell, Valent and Maggie Day of Silver Creek High School in Indiana, who has a 4.0 GPA. This is the third year for the scholarships.

In 2013, Engram flew to Los Angeles and spoke with the executive producer of ESPN’s coveted ESPY Award. He said since that time, a relationship has been fostered that has helped to give Game Changers award recipients a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The ESPYS is an award show that recognizes professional athletes for their excellence in sports in season and during the off season.

Engram said, “This particular program of the organization is a nationwide initiative that recognizes the positive impact student-athletes have in their community while also encouraging them to be well-rounded citizens.”

Participants are measured on their ability to attain a minimum 3.0 GPA and give back a minimum of 50 hours of community service as well as encourages athletes to get high marks on their ACT / SAT, open up a checking and / or savings account, not miss school and join organizations outside of their sport.

Engram said, “It’s important for student athletes to recognize that their athleticism is a gateway, not a destination, to a successful life. Game Changers takes pride in highlighting individuals who not only attend school, but make the most of their high school experience by evolving and maximizing their talents on and off the field, court, pool.”

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