Promise Director Discusses Youth Violence at Cleveland City Council Forum

Promise Director Discusses Youth Violence at Cleveland City Council Forum

Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed hosted “Community Conversation: Solutions for Addressing Violence” on Thursday, October 27. The day-long event that brought together members of the community and healthcare and community organizations to talk about ways to prevent youth violence in Cleveland.

Promise director Lowell Perry Jr. participated in one of the event’s panels to discuss current programs addressing ongoing violence in the Central community. Led by moderator Wayne Dawson, news anchor for WJW Fox 8, the group talked about the importance of reaching kids at a young age to try to break the cycle of violence. They also discussed how jobs and creating opportunities for those people formerly incarcerated can provide a more appealing option than returning to the same cycle of criminal activity.

Perry talked to the group about how residents leading the change has been a successfully strategy for Promise and how that could translate into violence prevention. He also focused on Central’s strong schools and early learning centers.

Lowell Perry Jr., Promise director, speaks at Community Conversation forum.
Lowell Perry Jr., Promise director, speaks at Community Conversation forum.

“Any meaningful impact on violence prevention in neighborhoods will only come if residents themselves are intimately involved in the thought process around solutions, and execution of key strategies. Our Promise Ambassadors are prime examples of residents taking action,” said Perry.  “Access to quality education is also absolutely critical. Not only does training the mind prepare our young people for a future career, but it also opens up a new world of possibilities that may have appeared unthinkable to them in the past.”

The importance of working with families was also another hot topic during the panel. Andrea Martemus-Peters, MetroHealth and Dr. Edward Barksdale, University Hospitals, talked to the group about a new program that places ‘violence interrupters’ in hospital emergency rooms. The ‘violence interrupter’ meets with and counsels victims of violence while they are in the hospital. They also meet with victims family members to try to prevent retaliation and ongoing violence.

Overall, the event was a great starting point for bringing together the community to start to identify why violence is increasingly happening and what needs to be done collectively to start to turn the trend around.

“We look forward to working with Councilman Reed and others to continue this community conversation in other parts of Cleveland, and hopefully inspire action city-wide around creating a viable cradle to career pipeline that leaves guns and violence out of the mix,” said Perry in his closing statement.

Cleveland State University Announces 2016 Central Neighborhood Scholars

Cleveland State University Announces 2016 Central Neighborhood Scholars

The Cleveland State University Office of Civic Engagement recently announced the 2016 Central Neighborhood Scholars.

Joseph Bowman (New Tech East) and April Willis (John Hay High School of Architecture and Design) were selected for the scholarship from dozens of applicants. The Central Neighborhood Scholarship, now in its second year, was created because of Cleveland State University’s commitment to building a better relationship with the Central Neighborhood community.

2016 Central Neighborhood Scholars. (Source: CSU)
2016 Central Neighborhood Scholars.
(Source: CSU)

“As an anchor institution in the Central community, CSU has a responsibility to increase access to educational opportunities for the residents of the Central neighborhood,” said Director of Community Partnerships Julian Rogers according to CSU’s website.

Both students started fall semester classes and are getting acclimated to college life. Joseph plans to major in computer engineering and April plans to study Film, Television and Interactive Media. Read more about Joseph and April on CSU’s website here.

This scholarship is a collaboration between the university and Central neighborhood. The goal is increasing higher education opportunities for the Central neighborhood’s youth. The scholarship is awarded to students that display a clear commitment to their education, promising academic success and embody the spirit of the Central Promise Neighborhood.

To apply for the scholarship or learn more about it, click here

Cleveland Public Schools CEO Named Urban Educator of the Year

Cleveland Public Schools CEO Named Urban Educator of the Year

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) CEO, Eric Gordon, has been named 2016 “Urban Educator of the Year”.  The award comes from the Council of the Great City Schools. It is the highest honor a superintendent can receive in the United States.

Gordon was given the award for the progress he has made since 2011 when he became CEO of the school district. He is credited with creating “The Plan for Transforming Cleveland’s Schools” and increasing attendance and graduation rates.

Cleveland schools progress (Source: CMSD)
Cleveland schools progress (Source: CMSD)

“Eric Gordon has made a profound difference in the lives of thousands of Cleveland’s students, helped propel a once-struggling school system forward, and significantly contributed to the future of the Great City of Cleveland. Well done, Eric Gordon,” said Michael Casserly, the council’s executive directors, in a press release.

According to a press release from CMSD, the CEO readily acknowledges that the District has much more work to do, but the District can point to clear signs of progress:

  • CMSD’s graduation rate that has risen 17 points in the last five years and stands at a record 69.1 percent.
  • An analysis of the District’s latest report card data by The Plain Dealer showed CMSD achieved the 15th highest gains in the state.
  • For the last three years, at least 85 percent of students have complied with Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, required for promotion to fourth grade.
  • On the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, Cleveland was one of three urban districts, out of 21, to register increases on all four portions of the fourth-and eight-grade reading and math tests.
  • Parent involvement has soared – with 91 percent of parents and caregivers having face-to-face contact with their children’s teachers last year.

Gordon told that he credits the entire community for rallying behind the schools.

“This is Cleveland’s award,” he told the publication. “It’s the Cleveland Plan. It’s the entire community rallying around what’s right for kids. This isn’t Eric Gordon’s award. This is Cleveland’s award.”

As part of the award, Gordon receives a $10,00 college scholarship to present to a student.

Word from Lowell: Continuing Central’s History of Civic Leadership

Word from Lowell: Continuing Central’s History of Civic Leadership

Lowell Perry Jr., Executive Director

The Central neighborhood has a rich history of local leaders rising from humble beginnings to become successful in Cleveland and nationally. The late Carl Stokes became the first African-American mayor of a major US city. His brother Louis Stokes was an influential US Congressman. The brothers are products of Outhwaite Estates and their stories are an inspiration to many Americans. Current Cleveland mayor, Frank Jackson also grew up in Central.

All three men represent examples of true civic leadership. Mayor Jackson is still carrying on that tradition today. Each understood that the work had to be done from within the political system to bring about positive outcomes for those who have been historically locked out of the pursuit of the American dream. We are still waging that battle today which is why we all need to clearly understand what civic duty is all about.

Civic duty is defined as “the responsibilities of a citizen.” A person’s civic duty can take them as far as Congress, as it did with Louis Stokes, or it can be as simple as voting or attending a community townhall to express concerns and ideas for change.  The late Congressman Stokes was a master at understanding the system and knowing how to work within it to advocate for equality for all of this country’s citizens.

The first African-American to represent Ohio, Louis Stokes chaired several congressional committees (including the Permanent Select Intelligence Committee) and was the first person of color to win a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He used his own success to try to increase opportunities for millions of African Americans, saying, “I’m going to keep on denouncing the inequities of this system, but I’m going to work within it. To go outside the system would be to deny myself—to deny my own existence. I’ve beaten the system. I’ve proved it can be done—so have a lot of others.”

If you want a say in the decisions that directly impact your neighborhood, Election Day, Nov. 8, is one way to make your voice heard. Voting is a top responsibility of all citizens.  As an African-American male, I feel a special obligation to exercise this responsibility as a way to honor those who came before us who were denied that right.

While the Presidential election has most of our attention this year, it is important to vote in state and local elections – every year.  There is a saying that “all politics is local”. It’s true that local elections have the biggest impact on our daily lives.

Our Promise motto is that residents lead the change in the Central neighborhood. You can be active in your community by voting, volunteering or just learning about your city councilperson and the people who represent your voice in the state legislature. Ensuring that all of our children get a quality education, including understanding the workings of the political system, might be one of the most important ways to lead that change as a resident leader.

If you plan to vote on Nov. 8 here are some helpful resources for Election Day:

  • Find your polling place: Polling location and district information
  • Voting hours for Nov. 8: Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
  • Early voting started Oct. 12, you can vote at the Cuyahoga County Board of Electionslocated at 2925 Euclid Ave. Early voting hours can be found here: Early voting hours
  • Learn more about the elections taking place in Ohio on Nov. 8: Voter Guide
  • What you need to bring to the polls:
    • Voters must bring identification to the polls in order to verify identity. Identification may include:
      • A current and valid photo identification card (e.g., driver’s license or state ID)
      • A military identification
      • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and current address.
      • Note:You cannot use as proof of identification a notice that the board of elections mailed to you. Voters who do not provide one of these documents will still be able to vote by provisional ballot.

Right now, a diverse group of civic and community leaders are planning a special Stokes 50th Year Commemoration Project highlighting the 50 year anniversary of Carl Stokes’ election as mayor; of the groundbreaking role of his brother Louis Stokes, in the legal and political life of our nation; and of Cleveland’s contributions to civil rights attainments in America. The theme is “Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future of Cleveland.”Many events, tributes, and programs are planned for throughout 2017. I have the honor of serving on the planning committee for this year-long commemoration project.

I invite you to join me in this celebration of “Central born” leadership.  In many ways, it all begins on November 8.

Q&A with Joe Black: Promise Engagement Manager and National Urban Fellow

Q&A with Joe Black: Promise Engagement Manager and National Urban Fellow

Joe Black, Promise engagement manager, has been selected by the National Urban Fellows for its Academic & Leadership Development Fellowship Program. This is a rigorous, 14-month graduate-degree program comprising four semesters of academic courses and a nine-month mentor-ship.

As part of this program, Joe was required to spend this past summer at Bernard M. Baruch College School of Public Affairs in New York City. The program culminates in a master of public administration. Graduates of this program include diverse public-service leaders who have gone on to assume influential positions across government, philanthropic, and nonprofit sectors.

Since returning from NYC at the end of July, Joe has jumped right back into his work at Promise while continuing his academic requirements for the Urban Fellowship program.

Joe shares his experience so far and how this opportunity has given his advocacy for Promise a national stage:

What is the National Urban Fellow Program? 

The National Urban Fellows Program (NUF) combines academics and leadership with the goal of advancing mid-career professionals into executive-level positions.

The group is truly a community of leaders who seek to address society’s dysfunction by implementing strategic actions through public administration.

Joe Black and his National Urban Fellow classmates in New York City
Joe Black and his National Urban Fellow classmates in NYC

Why did you want to pursue this?

My professional career has involved many different professions ranging from working in a daycare to mentoring, followed by social work, youth program development, and now community reform and engagement. With such a diverse work history, I realized that service, particularly serving people, was the common thread. I also discovered that politics combined with lack of an advanced degree is what limited my professional growth and impact. In response to those limitations, I decided to seek opportunities to address both, which led me to apply.

The opportunity also positions me to serve as an advocate for Cleveland. I am pursuing NUF with the vision of making sure that people have a seat at the table. My motto was that if you are not at the table you’re more than likely on the menu. Over the summer, my vision and motto shifted. My responsibility was no longer just about being at the table, it was about “being the table”. My pursuit to be an advocate for the community shifted to being a platform for advocacy.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

It’s not often that an individual can prepare for a life changing experience. In my case, I knew I was about to embark on a journey. I knew the journey would be filled with a list of challenges that included leaving my family for an extended period of time and stretching my finances to afford living in New York while managing the needs of my family in Cleveland.

I challenged myself to remain present in the moment and to talk with anyone and everyone. My openness benefited me more than I had imagined. The way that I have been conditioned to think living in Cleveland was completely different from those who lived in New York. I realized that “you don’t know what you don’t know” but my experience in NYC broadened my horizon to at least absorb that concept.

Living in Jersey and commuting to the city daily taught me a lot about managing my space and time. I learned the importance of a book bag in comparison the trunk of my car. I also learned what it meant to have good walking shoes.

When I returned to Cleveland, a small portion of me missed the public transportation so much so that I have started riding my bike through the community and walking to work when at all possible.

How will this impact the work you are doing for Promise?

Thus far my experiences as a student have challenged me to dig deep and look at root causes in a different way. For example, I was engaged in a conversation with a deputy commissioner from RTA. The conversation focused on the fiscal problems that RTA is projecting will occur in the next 3-5 years. The projections included another rise in cost and a reduction in services rendered. Overall the issues have some significant implications on the community as a significant portion of the community relies on public transportation.

I expect that if I had this conversation prior to my time away I would have assumed that the solution was to explore strategies to stabilize the rise in cost. Now that I have spent this time away, I think that looking into the rise in cost is one component the other aspect is exploring how to creating alternate travel options:

  • How do I work with the Community Development Corporation to make the community more walk-able and bike friendly?
  • How do I increase snow removal strategies to support that effort?
  • How do I increase jobs in the community to reduce reliance on public transportation?

What have you learned about resident engagement during this experience?

Although I had a generic understanding of the power of residents, I now have an even deeper appreciation for the power of resident voice. I think there is a significant value in being civically involved and with such involvement comes a unique source of power.

How do you juggle coursework with your family and career?

New York City at night
New York City at night

To date, I find that the most difficult task is managing the list of responsibilities that I face as a father, student, and community servant. Each task requires that I prioritize my responsibilities and set boundaries. At this point, I try to engage with my family as much as possible taking time to cook dinner on Sundays and take family bike rides as time permits throughout the week. When it comes to work, I try to leverage my existing relationships to create opportunities for new professional experiences. Overall, the challenge of managing school, family and work is difficult but the lessons learned are well worth the challenges I face

What was your experience like living in NYC for the summer?

Prior to my summer in NYC, I was confident that New York was not the place for me. I thought the city was obnoxiously expensive and overcrowded. Now, I would maintain my beliefs about the cost and the crowds, yet my tone has softened as I discovered the greatness of the city.

I have come to appreciate the mass of people and the range of people that you can encounter on a 15-minute commute on the subway.

What I found to be even more unique about the city is the vibrant energy that naturally parades the streets. There was a sense of optimism that lingered in every discussion. That optimism being the foundation for a display of talents that were worthy of a premier stage in many other markets.  I vividly remember encountering talented people such as a homeless man who charged my phone while telling me stories about his hand made guitar. I listened to musical performances from entertainers who performed on the subways with the same tenacity as if they were on Broadway.

My experience in New York leaves me anxious to return, but only under the terms that Cleveland will always be home.

The Most Important Role Models are Created at Home

The Most Important Role Models are Created at Home

I recently watched a video that captured the story of a woman known as Miss Auntie from Liberty Square, more commonly referred to as Pork’ N Beans Projects, in Liberty City, Miami. In the video, Miss Auntie pleads for individuals to step-up and become role models for the neighborhood children. She says that representatives from the area and professional basketball players should come into the community and teach the kids a better way to live. “They need role models!” Miss Auntie chants. dawn-column-card

As I listened to her plea, I began to think about my mother. Mom had a good work ethic, was a great homemaker, was community responsible, maintained a clean environment and hired neighborhood residents to perform odd jobs. She was a good listener, communicator, supporter and companion.  Although my father passed away when I was a toddler, I’ve been inspired by all the nice things I’ve learned about him as well.

During the video, I heard the voices and laughter of children and I thought about their parents, who could certainly serve as role models. I looked over at my night stand and saw the Mother’s Day card that my son gave to me this past May. I keep it on display because the words on the cover inspire me to keep trying. The cover reads “Women Like You Set an Example.”  As parents, we are indeed role models, and even if we don’t recognize ourselves as so, believe it or not, our kids do.

Dawn Glasco,

Engagement Coordinator, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood

Knowledge Sharing: Promise Team Speaks at Case Western Reserve University

Knowledge Sharing: Promise Team Speaks at Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management invited Promise team members to speak to a group of professionals that work with youth and families.  Joe Black, Promise Neighborhood Engagement Manager, and Quiana Singleton, Promise Ambassador, spoke at a training session for the Cuyahoga County Youth Work Institute. Joe and Quiana spoke to youth-serving professionals and program coordinators about their approach to community engagement.

Joe Black, Promise Neighborhood Engagement  Manager, speaks at Case Western Reserve University
Joe Black, Promise Neighborhood Engagement Manager, speaks at Case Western Reserve University

They were asked to speak because of their success in building relationships with Central residents and their ability to then connect residents to resources and organizations that can help their needs.

As leader of Promise’s connection with Central residents, Joe spoke about how important it is to keep people at the center of everything you want to accomplish in a community. He stressed that before you can connect people with organizations and resources, you need to connect with them on a personal level. His advice to the group was to learn the needs of a family, build trust and then find a common ground where their needs can be met before trying to immediately connect them with programs.

Quiana gave the group a point-of-view of a resident who has turned into an engaged and involved volunteer. She stressed the importance of getting to know a community before becoming involved. She also explained how it’s important to know what people want but also what they do not want. Quiana also explained that Low attendance at programs might not be because of lack of interest. Get to know the bigger picture about what could be preventing resident attendance.

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Honors Ten Teachers for Excellence

Cleveland Metropolitan School District Honors Ten Teachers for Excellence

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) announced today that they are honoring 10 teachers for outstanding classroom practices that the teachers will now share with their peers. The 10 are the first recipients of the Excellence in Teaching Awards. CMSD, the Cleveland Foundation, George Gund Foundation and the Cleveland Teachers Union are partners in the program, which is to be repeated annually.

New Tech East High School teach Christine Richard was one of the recipients of this year’s award. Ms. Richard’s nomination described her as an inspiration and example to the New Tech East staff and a mentor to new teachers at the school. “Everyone that comes into contact with Ms. Richard instantly becomes better,” a colleague wrote.

Christine Richard accepts congratulations from a student Source: CMSD News Bureau
Christine Richard accepts congratulations from a student
Source: CMSD News Bureau

According to the CMSD announcement, Ms. Richard was initially puzzled when Network Leader Lisa Farmer-Cole, who oversees a group of schools that includes New Tech East, and other visitors entered her classroom last Friday. When she noticed the balloons they were bearing, she guessed what was up and began to tremble.

“Of all the teachers in Cleveland, of all the people who were nominated, I got chosen,” said Richard, who is in her 17th year with the District. “I can’t believe it.”

Richard transferred to New Tech East when the school opened in 2010 because she liked the hands-on, project-based approach of the nationwide New Tech Network. In her social studies classes, she emphasizes to students that they are all capable of making a difference in the world.

“She helps everybody out,” said student Karon Dukes. “She makes sure that everybody is on track and that nobody is left behind.”

The awards, each accompanied by a $5,000 check, are for teachers who demonstrate instructional expertise, creativity and innovation, make learning engaging, vibrant and relevant and set a standard of excellence.

According to CMSD, principals, teachers and other colleagues nominated 201 teachers after the program was announced in late May. From that field, 130 teachers applied and 101 obtained the necessary endorsement from their principals and another colleague.

A panel representing PreK–12 educators, higher education, philanthropy and the community sorted through applications, which had the names redacted, and selected 28 finalists. A smaller team named the winners.

The 10 winning teachers will share their practices with peers in a variety of ways such as posting sample lessons online, allowing other teachers to observe them at work and conducting workshops.

View the full list of winners here:

Neighbors in the News: E22nd Street Bridge Project Gets Media Attention

Neighbors in the News: E22nd Street Bridge Project Gets Media Attention

The newly repainted E22nd Street Bridge received a makeover this summer. The colorful design has the words “unite”, “racial divide” and “believe.” The bridge was painted by a group from Campus District, Promise Ambassadors and other community members. They call it the “Bridge that Bridges” because it connects the Central neighborhood to the downtown business district.

Cleveland’s News Channel 5 recently did a story about the E22nd Street Bridge and interviewed Promise Ambassadors Gwen Garth, Cordell Arellano and Delores Gray:

Community members repaint the E22nd Street Bridge (Photo courtesy of Jan Thrope)
Community members repaint the E22nd Street Bridge (Photo courtesy of Jan Thrope)

“It can bring people together…it is hard to be mad or angry, when you’re painting,” Gwen Grath, Lead Artist on the project, the ‘Bridge that Bridges.’

Unity, Justice, Togetherness are all goals of Cleveland’s campus district’s newest project that’s tackling the hot topic of race.

“We wanted to use this opportunity to have discussions about that, about structural racism about individual racism and create a mural I can connect the two and brings it back together,” said Kaela Geschke, Community Organizer from the non-profit Campus District Inc.

You can watch the story here: