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facing history funding brings play about ksu shootings to cleveland classrooms

A Shaker Heights High School project about the Kent State shootings will be brought into classrooms throughout the Cleveland area thanks to a nonprofit that believes education is the key to stopping such events from happening again.

Facing History and Ourselves awarded Shaker Heights High School teacher John Morris $3,000 to collaborate with Kent State University professor David Hassler on the project. American history, literature and theater students at Shaker Heights will learn about the ramifications of the massacre through the play May 4th Voices: Kent State 1970. Pupils at regional Facing History classrooms will also be part of the program, says Mark Swaim-Fox, executive director of the local chapter of Facing History.

The play offers different viewpoints from a violent moment in American history, investigating a critical moment in the social protest movement. Stagings of May 4th Voices will take place for students as well as the wider Cleveland community, with help from Facing History staff and educators.

"It aligns with critical thinking of how we remember the past," says Swaim-Fox. "We want this to be a resource for the kids in our network."

Facing History is a Massachusetts-based educational group working across the country to combat racism and prejudice through education. Swaim-Fox hopes the play garners a new audience, with curricular materials about the shootings circulated to a new generation of young learners.

"The play is uncovering untold stories from a chapter of history that sometimes gets passed over," he says. "This will be a great vehicle for students to look at a complicated time period."

SOURCE: Mark Swaim-Fox
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cpl to make it a great summer for cleveland's young readers

Summer traditionally is the season for kids to laze about or get shuttled off to camp by their parents. Cleveland Public Library has whipped up an imaginative way keep children engaged in reading during the hot months through its Summer Reading Club.

This year's Make it a Great Summer program will run until August 2. While it is designed to keep the minds of its young participants active and ready for a return to the classroom, that doesn't mean sitting them among dusty stacks and placing books in their hands.

In addition to reading, the club encourages children to build and create through hands-on programs at any of the system's 27 branches as well as the main library, notes Aaron Mason, assistant director of outreach programming at CPL.

"There's the traditional component of kids logging their reading over the summer, but we also wanted them actively involved," Mason says.

Creativity is at the heart of these activities aimed at Cleveland public school students in grades K-12, adds the CPL spokesman. Kids can build their own balloon rocket or balloon-powered rocket car. Another program will have them learn about movie making while creating hand-held movies using flipbook animation.

For children who read and log 10 books or more, the festivities will culminate with a free family trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo on August 17. Anything that drives young people to their local library is a positive in Mason's book.

"We want to get them engaged," he says. "These activities encourage kids to keep on reading."

SOURCE: Aaron Mason
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

fifth third to roll mobile bank into underserved communities

Fifth Third Bank wants Northeast Ohioans who might be anxious about walking into a financial institution to get on the bus.

The bank has partnered with local community organizations to bring the Financial Empowerment Mobile, or eBus, to nine locations in the region from June 19 to June 29. The eBus is a rolling classroom providing credit counseling, financial literacy, home ownership assistance, and access to banking services directly to where people live, says Rob Soroka, retail executive at Fifth Third.

"People coming on the bus are struggling with their finances," says Soroka. "This is a place where they can get unbiased advice and direction to improve their financial life."

The mobile classroom is equipped with computer terminals for instructor-led or self-directed home ownership and credit counseling programs. Fifth Third community development officers, mortgage professionals and retail banking staff will be riding along to offer financial advice in a relaxed atmosphere.

Now in its ninth year, the theme of this year's program is realizing financial dreams, be it owning a house or starting a business, says Laura Passerallo, Fifth Third director of marketing. The eBus venture, which counts the Call & Post Foundation and The Word Church among its partners, will serve upwards of 1,600 people this summer.

Fifth Third will also hold large community events to introduce people to the eBus. A June 28 get-together at the Hispanic Business Center aims to provide a festive atmosphere for folks curious about what the 40-foot-long bank-on-wheels provides.

"People who need help may be intimated to come into a traditional financial center," says Soroka. "With the eBus, that intimidation goes away. That does some good for the community."

SOURCES: Rob Soroka, Laura Passerallo
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

pop warner takes the field for northeast ohio youth

The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child"  has been transferred to the gridiron by Northeast Ohio Pop Warner, an organization inviting the region's children to participate either as football players or cheerleaders.

Kids aged 5-12 can play football, while the age range for cheerleaders is 5-13. The nonprofit is hosting two free preseason football and cheerleading training camps this month for the underprivileged children the program services. The local chapter of Pop Warner is an extension of a century-old youth football organization with over 350,000 kids taking part worldwide.

Mark Wilson is chapter president and coach of the 8- and 9-year-old football team. For its first year of programming, Wilson hopes to have between 100 and 200 children involved between football and cheerleading. The summer will be spent practicing and training, with an 8-game season starting in September.

"The feedback has been great so far," says Wilson. "I've met parents who said they've never experienced anything like this."

The local team will be named the Ohio Village Wildcats. The program is mostly aimed at inner-city Cleveland youth, but young athletes from all over the region are invited to try out. Pop Warner is designed to be an outlet for positive experiences both on and off the field. Along with football, the group hosts picnics and other family-friendly outings. It is also the only national youth sports organization that requires scholastic aptitude to participate.

The local team's name is no accident, either, Wilson notes.

"The mission is about keeping families together, not just showing up to do sports and go home," he says. "We're trying to make a stronger community, period."

SOURCE: Mark Wilson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

female philanthropic circle forms to bring health care to uninsured women

All women have the right to quality health care, including a full spectrum of obstetrical and gynecological treatment. A network of area women have started an initiative to ensure those needs are met.

Summa Foundation Circle of Women's Health Philanthropists is led by a collection of female executives, professionals and social philanthropists. The group launched in April and has raised over $65,000 in pledges to bring pre-natal care and other critical medical advancements to uninsured or underinsured women, says Circle co-founder Julia Rea Bianchi.

The 15 organization members will choose from a wish list of medical needs by the end of the year, notes Shelley Green, director of principal giving with Summa Foundation. The funds may go directly into the operating budget of the Summa Center for Women's Health and the Women's Health Unit at Summa Akron City Hospital, or be used to purchase new bassinets or a fetal heart Doppler machine for the center.

Through the Circle's work, "there will be great stewardship of those [financial] gifts," says Bianchi, a Summa Foundation board member. "Coming together we can make a powerful and measurable impact."

The group was created in part from Bianchi's experience as a national founder of Tiffany Circle, a growing philanthropic venture affiliated with the American Red Cross. With the Center for Women's Health drawing 15,000 patients annually, Bianchi recognized an opportunity to localize that ambitious endeavor.

"It's tried and true and can work here," she says. "We know we can improve the well-being of women without access to quality health care, and it can done right here at Summa Health System."

SOURCES: Shelley Green, Julia Rea Bianchi
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

brain gain group, bar association link up for cleveland pep rally

The Brain Gain Cleveland Project (BGCP) has teamed up with the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association to stage a lunchtime pep rally for the city they love.

The rally will be hosted by the legal organization and serve as its annual meeting, just with a far more diverse crowd than usual, says Debra Mayers Hollander, deputy director of scouting for BGCP.

Hollander is expecting 1,000 guests to make it to the floor of Quicken Loans Arena for the June 28 event. Among the more famous participants scheduled to appear are Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and Senator Sherrod Brown. BGCP members the Cleveland Orchestra and Positively Cleveland will be among the institutions on hand. The event also will include live music, videos about Cleveland, and food from local eateries.

Rally attendees can fill out a registration form online or purchase tickets by calling the bar association at 216-696-3525. Those who miss the daytime event can make up for it that night with a BGCP music and networking get-together at The Tavern Company in Cleveland Heights.

"It's going to feel inspirational," Hollander says. "Everybody coming together in the heart of downtown Cleveland to support one another."

BGCP is a nonprofit advocacy group founded by bar association members to grow the city through the creativity and energy of its citizens. The grassroots effort is led by Jon Leiken, a Jones Day partner and bar association president-elect. BGCP's website launched in 2012 and has attracted about 350 “scouts," a term referring to its members.  

"We hope [the rally] encourages people to join us and become a scout," says Hollander.

SOURCE: Debra Mayers Hollander
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

black achievement the topic of foundation center's first 'rising tide' event

When every sector of a populace thrives, so does the community as a whole. The local chapter of a national philanthropic organization plans to shine a light on this and other issues during a series of programs in 2013.

Philanthropic support of black male achievement will be the subject of the Foundation Center's first Rising Tide program on May 22, says director Cindy Bailie. Nearly every major indicator of economic, social and physical well-being shows that black men and boys in the U.S. do not have access to the structural foundation and opportunities needed to succeed. However, a flood of philanthropic support and social innovation is addressing these challenges head on.

"There's work happening locally aimed at black men of all ages," says Bailie. "This is our chance to change the situation."

The program will consist of three speakers and a panel discussion. The center has also launched a website to spotlight the topic. Connecting people to those working on the problem is only part of the plan.

"We want people to leave inspired," says Bailie. "This is a call to action."

The New York-headquartered Foundation Center is a source of information on U.S. grantmakers. Locally, the organization acts as a library/learning center for those seeking knowledge about the nonprofit sector.

The black achievement program is the first of a planned series of quarterly events "showcasing new ways of solving old problems," says Bailie. Future events could touch on such topics as the impact of arts and culture on the community.

"These [programs] aren't just conversation-starters," Bailie says. "What will you do to keep the conversation going?"

SOURCE: Cindy Bailie
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization's eclectic mix of programs 'scoring' points with cleveland students

Soccer, creative writing and volunteerism might seem like an odd mix, just don't tell that to the students helped by America SCORES Cleveland, an organization that has been providing unique after-school programming for almost 10 years.

The local chapter of America SCORES, which launched in 2004, serves more than 500 youths in 10 Cleveland public schools. The program is designed to create "poet-athletes" through an innovative triple threat of soccer, poetry and service learning, says executive director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.
The tri-curricular approach creates well-rounded students, maintains Pence-Meyenberg. Soccer was chosen for its accessibility and minimal equipment needs. Writing and performing poetry, meanwhile, gives youths an emotional outlet and promotes creative thinking. Finally, volunteerism instills in children a sense of compassion, social responsibility and personal worth.

"We want urban youth to lead healthy lives and be involved in their community," says Pence-Meyenberg.

Public school students in grades three through eight can stay engaged through sports and creative writing, notes the chapter head. Participants also choose their own neighborhood-based service projects, like working at a community garden or raising money for Haitian earthquake victims.

On June 22, Cleveland's student-poets will collaborate with Cleveland artists during an event at 78th Street Studios. The Inspired Art Project will showcase the poetry of local youths through original artwork from Cleveland creatives, with sales of these items going to America SCORES. The program, along with the other activities America SCORES offers, can have a positive impact on the culture of an entire school district.

"Our kids and becoming healthier and more engaged," Pence-Meyenberg says.

SOURCE: Debi Pence-Meyenberg
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

united way calls for volunteers to help with cleveland schools transformation

United Way of Greater Cleveland has been a steady supporter of Cleveland's schools for years. The charity organization is now looking for some outside assistance as the city works to change the fortunes of the struggling district.

United Way is inviting volunteers to invest their time and talent in conjunction with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's initiative to transform its underachieving schools. The CMSD volunteer opportunities have not yet been defined, but United Way president and CEO Bill Kitson knows help will be needed once the new school program launches in the fall.

"We're taking names and we'll get back in touch with people this summer," says Kitson. “We need our entire community to wrap around our kids, their families and their schools.” 

Enrichment programs, mentoring and after-school enrichment opportunities are just a few of the changes afoot for the 13 Cleveland schools impacted by the strategy, the first part of The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools.

Interested volunteers can sign up online or call United Way 2-1-1. The organization will contact potential participants when opportunities fitting their skills and interests arise. Helpers might be needed to walk to children to school, or to assist with neighborhood cleanups around school facilities.

"There are so many ways to utilize the community," Kitson says.

United Way officials would like to get a couple of hundred volunteers engaged as soon as the schools open. The group views education as a key to the city's success, and publically supported CMSD's 15-mill levy that passed last November.

"Getting a neighborhood involved in its schools goes beyond education," says Kitson.

SOURCE: Bill Kitson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization asks parents to pledge allegiance to their children's education

 About 2,000 days pass from when a child is born to the moment he or she enters kindergarten. Officials from The Centers for Families & Children believe every one of those days is critical in preparing a child's educational future, and have created a new campaign to back up that point.

The 2,000 Day Pledge asks parents already involved with The Centers to keep their kids in an early learning program for as many days as possible within the first 2,000 days of that child's life. It also requests parents choose a high-performing elementary school compatible with their young student's learning needs, with graduation from high school being the long-term goal.

Those 2,000 days are a window to prepare children for success in school and life, says Sharon Sobol Jordan, president and CEO of The Centers. "We have this same amount of time with our parents to help them get ready to be good advocates for their children," she says.

Kids who enter kindergarten lacking a solid educational foundation are at risk of falling behind peers who have those advantages, says Amy Martin, the organization's vice president of marketing and communications.

"The gap widens in elementary school, and by high school you start to see the drop-out rate rise," says Martin.

While the new campaign is mostly aimed at existing clients, The Centers' officials hope word about the pledge spreads to expectant mothers and other members of the community.  In addition, The Centers doesn't just ask parents to pledge, but considers the campaign a shared commitment between itself and participants.

"We want to help parents fight for the education of their children," Martin says. "We're partners with them every step of the way."
SOURCE: Sharon Sobol Jordan, Amy Martin
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cleveland hostel raises awareness, signatures for marriage equality

The Cleveland Hostel welcomes travelers from all over the world, so it makes perfect sense for owner Mark Raymond to expand that welcoming attitude to an important issue impacting both the country and the state of Ohio.

On April 18, Raymond's Ohio City-based hostel hosted an event that raised awareness and signatures for the Freedom to Marry Ohio movement dedicated to ending marriage discrimination.

Over 75 attendees gathered to support the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom amendment, which would grant two consenting adults the right to marry regardless of gender. In addition, the amendment would not infringe upon religious freedoms, meaning religious institutions would be free to recognize or not recognize the marriage.

"I don't see why government would get in the way of gay marriage," says Raymond, 32. "That's not what we're about here [in the U.S]."

Among the hostel event's speakers were Freedom to Marry Ohio co-founder Ian James, who married his partner in Canada in 2003. Changing the state constitution’s definition of marriage while protecting religious groups' freedom to recognize that union is a tricky balance, one Raymond hopes at least get a chance to succeed on the November ballot.

Supporters of the amendment have until July 3 to file at least 386,000 valid signatures with the Ohio secretary of state.
Raymond is proud to be part of the grassroots effort, and would consider hosting another awareness-raising event should the opportunity arise.

"This can be something that leads to change in our country," he says.

SOURCE: Mark Raymond
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

foundation grant sends message, gives financial boost to 2014 gay games

The 2014 Gay Games was a great "get" for the Cleveland-Akron area, as the region was selected over larger competing metropolises like Boston and Washington, D.C. The Cleveland Foundation has reinforced the notion of the games' importance with some hefty financial support.

The foundation recently awarded the games a $250,000 grant, forming a partnership that makes the organization the games' top sponsor. The event is now named the 2014 Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation, representing the first presenting sponsorship in the games’ 31-year history.

"We saw the games as an important event coming to Cleveland," says foundation executive vice president Bob Eckardt. "This [grant] sends a message about the area as an inclusive community."

As a result of the partnership, a new LGBT fund also is being established at the foundation. Launching at the end of the games next August, the fund will assist LGBT organizations and serve as a donation source for people interested in LGBT causes.

The forthcoming sports and cultural festival, aimed at promoting respect and understanding of the gay community through athletics, is expected to draw about 30,000 people to the region, including 11,000 athletes.

Foundation leaders maintain that the games' social impact on Northeast Ohio is just as important as its potential economic benefits. "Our hope is it will leave a legacy of a region more sensitive and welcoming to the LGBT community," Eckardt says.

That relationship is already growing, says the foundation VP, as games' leaders are now cultivating relationships with local businesses intent on strengthening Greater Cleveland's support of LGBT society.

"This is a great opportunity for the entire community to work together," says Eckardt.

SOURCE: Bob Eckardt
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

clevelander's documentary offers real-life tales of rust belt revitalization

For some, the term "Rust Belt" conjures unpleasant images of empty factories, foreclosed homes and unhappy people wandering cracked streets, wondering when times will get better. But what's really happening in some of the Midwest's major cities, and how different is it from the way these cities are often depicted?

Jack Storey thinks he has an answer. The impassioned city advocate has created a documentary chronicling what he believes is a more accurate representation of resilient cities working on reinventing themselves.

"Red, White & Blueprints" is an examination of the strides being taken by Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Youngstown, highlighting the most innovative initiatives, individuals and ideas coming out of these cities.

"It's a positive movie about the Rust Belt, which nobody is really doing," says Storey, 30. "We're showcasing another side of these cities."

Storey, founder of the grassroots community development organization Saving Cities, spent two weeks in the summer of 2011 traveling and taking footage with friend Rick Stockburger. He met steelworkers and autoworkers, entrepreneurs and politicians, all with their own ideas on how to boost their respective homes. Locally, he interviewed figures including Gina Prodan from Unmiserable Cleveland and Katie O'Keefe, better known as "the pink-haired tattoo girl."

Storey, of Collinwood, learned just how tough Midwesterners are. More surprising was how deeply the people he met cared about their city's livelihood. "It was the most educational experience of my life," he says.

"Red, White & Blueprints" debuted this week at Cleveland International Film Festival. (Screens tonight at 6:30 p.m. on stand-by.) Storey hopes the film gives viewers a truer vision of what it means to live in Cleveland and other less heralded parts of the country.
SOURCE: Jack Storey
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

young audiences program teaches bullying prevention through the arts

Bullying prevention is a hot topic in U.S. schools. Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio is partnering with Cleveland educators and creative types to curtail such unkind behavior through the arts.

The arts education organization, which promotes innovative arts-infused learning for local children and teenagers, has created a series of anti-bullying and healthy living programs designed to empower students and create a kinder classroom community. About 20 area artists lent their imaginative expertise to upcoming programs that will use literature, dance and film to help students and teachers learn strategies to recognize and prevent bullying.

"Bullying can effect a school's entire culture," says Jennifer Abelson, director of marketing at Young Audiences. "Art is a way of creating a more empathetic environment."

A program from singer, songwriter and storyteller Susan Weber, for example, uses folk tales from diverse cultures to study characters' responses when confronted with unfriendly words and actions. Discussing bullying through stories will allow the program's elementary school-aged audience to grapple with their feelings from a safe place, notes Abelson.

"The idea is to get them young," she says. "Teaching tolerance and empathy is something that can reflect throughout their entire lives."

A program for high school students, meanwhile, uses humor and live demonstrations to share the stories of " real-life action heroes" who overcame obstacles to star on the silver screen. The brainchild of Akron-born fight director John Davis aims to help students break through self-doubt and achieve greatness.

"Soft skills" like confidence and self-esteem can create stronger, more tolerant communities, stopping bullying before it even begins, says Abelson.  

SOURCE: Jennifer Abelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

it's final: cle charter schools score high in state tests

A network of free, public charter schools in Cleveland is performing on par with its suburban brethren, according to the final state school report cards released this week for the 2011-12 academic year.

The Breakthrough Schools network, a charter partner of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, kept pace with the Orange and Strongsville school districts in state testing of math, science and reading. Two of the programs -- The Intergenerational School (TIS) and Citizens Academy -- were rated "Excellent with Distinction" (the highest rating possible) by the Ohio Department of Education.

Matching report cards with two historically high-ranking districts is a proud moment for the charter program, says communications director Lyman Millard. The results are particularly telling for an area that does not have the economic advantages of its suburban counterparts.

"This is a dream behind all of our schools," says Millard. "The quality of education you receive should not be determined by the region you live in."

The testing covered over 1,000 Breakthrough students in grades 3 through 8. The program formed in 2010 as a collaboration of three charter organizations: Citizens Academy, E Prep/Village Prep and TIS. Since then, Breakthrough has opened five new schools across Cleveland in partnership with the Cleveland school district.

The final report cards’ release followed a months-long delay prompted by a state investigation into whether some districts improperly removed truant students from enrollment figures. With the numbers confirmed, Breakthrough has proven to be a more-than-viable option for a high-quality academic environment, maintains the program's directors.

"We have great schools with great teachers and high expectations," Millard says. "Cleveland families don't have to move to the suburbs if they want a good education for their children."

SOURCE: Lyman Millard
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
49 Diversity Articles | Page: | Show All
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