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Back row: Willoh Slade of Shaker Heights High School, Ronquel Hepner of Cleveland Central Catholic, Sarah Reneker of Valley Forge High School, and Jonathan Williams of Lincoln West High School. Front row: Kyra Wells (home school student) of Shaker Heights, Christian Eberhart of Woodbury Elementary in Shaker Heights, and Naudia Loftis of St. Martin de Porres High School.

True2U Mentoring program to add 23 schools

A mentoring program for CMSD eighth-graders will double its reach to 46 schools this fall.

True2U, a collaborative effort involving the Cleveland Foundation, the District, the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, guides the students as they prepare for what can be a make-or-break transition to high school, postsecondary education or training and careers.

After the expansion, the program will be in more than half of CMSD’s K-8 schools. The remaining schools will be added during the 2017-18 academic year.

One day each month, mentors from corporations and other segments of the community fan out for three hours to participating schools, helping students to envision their futures and work on skills required to make those futures a reality.

Much of the focus is on career and college readiness, said Shana Marbury, general counsel and vice president for the Greater Cleveland Partnership, a metropolitan area chamber of commerce.

“For GCP, that’s one of the biggest attractions of the program,” Marbury said as she and other mentors worked with students April 14 at the Douglas MacArthur Girls’ Leadership Academy on Valleyside Road. “It’s building a pipeline.”

Mentors have undergone training led by Stedman Graham, a leadership consultant and author, and follow a curriculum based on his book, “Teens Can Make It Happen, Nine Steps to Success.” They help the students assess and develop their decision-making skills, self-image, strengths and values.

At the beginning of the program, Brenda, a student at Douglas MacArthur, completed an assessment that showed she is introverted. The 13-year-old has resolved to challenge herself to be more outgoing.

Mentors have helped the children research and choose their high schools. As a “portfolio district,” CMSD permits students to select from an array of options to find the best fit.

Brenda plans to attend Bard High School Early College because she believes that will be the best place to capitalize on her passion for writing. She hopes someday to write fantasy fiction like the Harry Potter series that she calls her obsession.

“My main goal is to be a lawyer,” said Brenda, who leans toward specializing in business and corporate law. “I’d like to be an author on the side.”

Teacher Veronica Wessell welcomes the mentors’ presence and says they fill a void at Douglas MacArthur.

“It provides the students with more resources,” she said. “We don’t have full-time guidance counselors. It’s hard for me as a teacher to go away from the curriculum and teach those things.”

Five mentors from fields like banking and architecture work with teacher David Slutzky’s students at Paul L. Dunbar on West 29th Street. He said the mentoring has prompted the children to consider what they want to do in life and “opens their eyes to things they didn’t know were options.”

Indya, 14, knew she wanted to be a neurologist but had no idea where to attend high school until exploring her options through True2U.

She settled on her neighborhood school, Lincoln-West, where a new small school, centered on science and health, will begin sharing the building this summer. The MetroHealth System has signed on as the school’s partner.

“Before they (the mentors) came, I wasn’t sure what to do, where to go,” Indya said. “They helped me step by step.”

Rosanne Rosenberger, treasury products manager for KeyBank, was impressed that many Dunbar eighth-graders already had a strong sense of their future direction. But she took delight in helping them get a clearer view.

“I really enjoy the “Aha” moments the kids get,” said Rosenberger, who formerly worked as a special-education aide for the Strongsville schools.

Besides Douglas MacArthur and Paul L. Dunbar, mentors worked this year with eighth-graders at A.J. Rickoff, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Eliot, Charles Mooney, Cleveland School of the Arts, Denison, East Clark, Garfield, Harvey Rice, Louis Agassiz, Mary B. Martin, Mary Bethune, Miles, Oliver H. Perry, Riverside, Sunbeam, Valley View Boys’ Leadership Academy, William Cullen Bryant, Willow and Willson.

Schools that will be added this fall include Alfred Benesch, Almira, Anton Grdina, Artemus Ward, Buhrer Dual Language, Charles Dickens, Clara E. Westropp, Daniel Morgan, Euclid Park, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Hannah Gibbons, Iowa-Maple, Kenneth W. Clement Boys’ Leadership Academy, Luis Muñoz Marin, Marion-Sterling, McKinley, Memorial, Michael R. White, Mound, Nathan Hale, Tremont Montessori, Warner Girls’ Leadership Academy and Whitney M. Young Leadership Academy.

True2U supplied 180 mentors this year. The program must increase that number to about 400 this year, said Kasey Morgan, a program officer for the Cleveland Foundation.

The Neighborhood Leadership Institute is in charge of recruiting the mentors. For more information on being a mentor, call 216-812-8700.

Nationally Renowned Architect of Hip-Hop Therapy, Tomás Alvarez III, will keynote CPAC Creative Intersections Event

Local poet/educator Daniel Gray-Kontar and columnist Phillip Morris of The Plain Dealer are scheduled to speak

CLEVELAND, OH – Ashoka Fellow and CNN Hero, Tomás Alvarez III, will keynote Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC’s) second Creative Intersections event, “Empowering Youth”, May 19, 2016, at the Bohemian National Hall in Cleveland’s Slavic Vill150916143547-cnn-heroes-alvarez-profile-large-169age neighborhood. 

Fueled by his discontent with traditional mental health systems, Alvarez set out to re-imagine mental health for boys and men of color. In 2004 while working as a school social worker he pioneered one of the first Hip-Hop Therapy programs in an effort to engage youth turned off by traditional forms of therapy. In 2011, he founded the nonprofit Beats Rhymes and Life, Inc. and served as its CEO until 2015. In 2012, his efforts using Hip-Hop Therapy in Oakland were the focus of an award-winning documentary film (A Lovely Day). In 2012 NBC Latino named Tomás Alvarez III one of the country’s Top 20 Innovators, whose work is changing their fields. In 2014 Alvarez was selected as a lifetime fellow by Ashoka, an international organization that identifies and supports social entrepreneurs whose bold ideas have the power to transform patterns in society. Currently, he is a SEERS fellow at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship where he is working to launch a global institute for Hip-Hop Therapy. 

“There are powerful local and national examples of arts and culture being deployed as a solution for some of the most challenging issues of our time,” said Tom Chema, chairman of CPAC’s board of trustees, “Our aim is to help broaden understanding of those opportunities and to spur dialogue and action about the role of greater Cleveland’s arts and culture assets in contributing to a more just and peaceful community” said Tom Schorgl, president and CEO, CPAC.   

Joining Alvarez at the event will be local poet, rapper, journalist, educator, and youth mentor, Daniel Gray-Kontar. He will focus his remarks on arts and culture’s role in education and how it can help Cleveland’s youth become change agents in their communities. Gray-Kontar is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley’s department of Language, Literacy, Society and Culture, and is the founder of Twelve: Literary and Performative Arts Incubator. His poetry has appeared in such anthologies as Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam (Three Rivers Press), Spirit and Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (Syracuse University Press), and on the sound recording Grand Slam: The Best of the National Poetry Slam, Volume One (Mouth Almighty Records). Gray-Kontar is also the 1994 national poetry slam co-champion. He has performed on over 30 international sound recordings. Gray-Kontar’s music and social criticism has appeared in such magazines as The Source, The Village Voice, Wax Poetics, and XLR8R. 

“Greater Cleveland’s arts and culture sector has long been a partner in youth development,” said Kristin Puch, Director of Research and Advancement at CPAC, “What we found inspiring about these two particular arts leaders’ stories is the progressive approach they are taking to creating positive alternatives and interventions for youth.” 

A discussion with both speakers, moderated by Phillip Morris, columnist,The Plain Dealer, will conclude the event. Morris regularly writes about crime, punishment and race issues. He has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in the category of newspaper commentary. 

The Creative Intersections “Empowering Youth” event will include light refreshments and time for networking. The cost is $25. For more information on the series and to register, visit

March 24, 2016: MyCom Joins Voices for Ohio’s Children 2016 Advocacy Day

Advocates gathered to educate legislators on important policy that keeps kids safe, healthy, educated, connected and employable

COLUMBUS– Over two hundred advocates gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on February 17th to educate state lawmakers about the critical needs of Ohio’s children. As a Signature Event for Voices’ 20th anniversary year, Advocacy Day provided an essential touch point for Ohio legislators and those who live and work with kids and child policy every day.

Decisions made here in Columbus have a tremendous impact on children’s lives and it can be difficult for policymakers to balance competing priorities with limited resources and also to maintain a clear focus on the needs of children.  But, while priorities may change from one legislative session to another and one budget cycle to the next, the needs of children do not. Ohio has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country and ranks in the bottom five states for developmental screenings that can identify special needs and catch health conditions before they become critical. Hundreds of kids across the state are on a waiting list for afterschool programs and one in five Ohio kids won’t get a meal tonight. That is why it is so important for advocates, direct care providers, and families to share their stories, challenges, and successes with our leaders and encourage them to invest in programs and services for Ohio’s children.

This year featured an Advocacy 101 Panel with Rep. Louis Terhar and his aide, Ali Yogmour, Voices’ outgoing CEO, Sandy Oxley, and Capital University student and advocacy novice, Amber Triplett. After the advocacy training, attendees met with their legislators and they voiced their support of various legislative bills that ensure kids a brighter future.  Voices was thrilled to welcome more than 75 youth participants from Cleveland’s MyCom network, who completed pre-event training and were recognized by their legislators on the Senate floor. Attendees reconvened for the Legislative Awards Luncheon, where Voices honored outstanding policymakers dedicated to making a difference in children’s lives: Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) for her work on infant mortality; Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) for his support of the MyCom network; Representative Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) for her work on youth employment; and Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) for his support of efforts to improve Ohio’s developmental screening rates. Outgoing CEO, Sandy Oxley, provided the luncheon’s keynote address, reflecting on her nine years with Voices and the evolution of children’s policy during that time. Oxley has transitioned to the Ohio Department of Health to head the department of maternal and child policy.

Voices was excited to once again offer this opportunity for advocates, care providers, community leaders, youth, and families to meet with their legislators and discuss how policies are impacting Ohio kids every day. That is where the focus of state policy should be and Voices intends to keep it there.

February 26, 2016: MyCom’s Youth Engagement Program FLOW Featured on WKYC Channel 3 Television

FLOW in Cleveland

February 25, 2016:MyCom Network Members Attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum

Nearly 2,700 Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists Made a ‘Monumental Impact’.

Nearly 2,700 substance abuse prevention and treatment specialists from throughout the country convened at CADCA’s 26th

CADCA Conference

MyCom Network Members Nelson Ramirez of Cleveland Hispanic UMADAOP, Greg Johnson and Belinda Kyle of East Cleveland at the CADCA National Forum

Annual National Leadership Forum in February 2016 at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

CADCA’s National Leadership Forum is the nation’s premier training event for substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals and researchers, featuring more than 70 training courses to help participants learn effective strategies to address drug-related problems in their communities.
This four-day training event brings together community drug prevention coalitions from all regions of the country and internationally, government leaders, youth, prevention specialists, addiction treatment professionals, addiction recovery advocates, researchers, educators, law enforcement professionals, and faith-based leaders. Topics ranged from how to address the heroin and opioid epidemic and marijuana use among youth to how to reduce tobacco use and underage drinking.
“This is my second opportunity to attend the CADCA Leadership Conference.  I am amazed to see hundreds of national and international community anti-drug coalitions.  There was a coalition as far away as the Marshall Islands.  I attended the Drug-Free Community grant workshop and was encouraged that Clark-Fulton MyCom Coalition is positioning itself for next year,” said Nelson Ramirez, JD, OCPSA Executive Director of Cleveland’s Hispanic UMADAOP, who attended the conference along with his MyCom colleagues from East Cleveland, Belinda Kyle and Greg Johnson.
CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), is a national membership organization representing over 5,000 coalitions and affiliates working to make America’s communities safe, healthy and drug-free. CADCA’s mission is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions by providing technical assistance and training, public policy advocacy, media strategies and marketing programs, conferences, and special events.

January 22, 2016: Congratulations to our Parma Neighborhood for a Successful MLK Day Program!

Parma MyCom Neighborhood Youth Development Coordinators Kathy Hall & Jean Mickleright

Parma MyCom Neighborhood Youth Development Coordinators Kathy Hall & Jean Micklewright

Kathy Hall and Jean Micklewright from the Parma Family Collaborative held a Martin Luther King Day event in the teen room of the Parma Library Branch.

On Monday, January 18th from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. students were asked to create a traveling paper quilt displaying words or images honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Participants were also able to view MLK-related videos on the library’s gaming station monitor.This inspiring program was sponsored by MyCom.





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