Open Doors Academy
, which started in 2002 as an after-school program for at-risk youth at St. Paul's Church in Cleveland Heights, now works with over 330 adolescents at eight school sites each year. Nearly 100 percent of Open Doors' participants attend college or a post-secondary program.
To accommodate its growth, Open Doors recently moved into a newly renovated, 5,700-square-foot office at 3311 Perkins Avenue. Executive Director Annemarie Grassi says that the organization has come out of the closet -- quite literally.
"We started in a space in the Heights Medical Building in Cleveland Heights that was maybe 400 square feet, and that was a huge upgrade from our office before, which was located in a St. Pauls Church closet," says Grassi. "Then we moved to 1,800 square feet, but everytime you turned around there was more growth."
The new office, which was completely raw before the landlord built it out, features open space with pods for various work teams and hoteling spaces for field workers who only come into the office occasionally. The project was paid for by a grant from the Ames Foundation and a donation from a generous individual.
Grassi says that Open Doors is effective because it offers a comprehensive support program for at-risk youth, involving families, teachers and school support staff in efforts to bolster student achievement and leadership. Unique features include required service work as close as Cleveland and as far away as Honduras.
"We combine high-quality programming with strong outcomes," says Grassi. "When a kid sees that their parent is invested in the program, then they're more likely to be invested, too. We focus on creating the whole child."
Grassi says that Open Doors, whose hallmark is engaging youth every school day from 6th-12th grade, is replicable. "We want to be in every high school in Cleveland and the inner ring suburbs 20 years from now," she says.
Source: Annemarie Grassi
Writer: Lee Chilcote