Central’s Sterling library gives children food for mind, body

Central’s Sterling library gives children food for mind, body

The Sterling Branch of Cleveland Public Library was recently featured in The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com for its role as a vital resource for the children of the Central community. Located at 2220 East 30th street, Sterling library is a home away from home for many children in Central. More from Cleveland.com:

Security guard Sam Darden keeps watch outside as children head to the library after school. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)
Security guard Sam Darden keeps watch outside as children head to the library after school. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)

The mission of libraries has changed: Once focused on feeding minds, they now feed souls, and stomachs, too. 

At close to 3:30 on a recent Wednesday afternoon, uniformed children run around the grounds of Marion Sterling Elementary School, releasing pent-up energy from a long day of classes. School has been in session for just over two weeks, and summer freedom is fresh in their minds. 

Soon, the students gather into small groups of friends and cross East 30th street, just south of Olde Cedar, a CMHA housing project. Security guard Sam Darden stands on the steps of the Sterling Branch of Cleveland Public Library and greets them. Spending time at the library is a routine that is fixed and familiar all summer, after school, on weekends, and during school breaks. 

Most of the children head to the community room, where they know they’ll get an after-school meal. There is some pushing and shoving in line among the rambunctious group as library branch manager Monica Rudzinski records each student’s name for The Cleveland Food Bank’s Kids Cafe, which sponsors the food program. 

“Libraries aren’t just about information anymore,” says Rudzinski, wiping down a table to get it ready for the next wave of students. “We are about helping the community get the services they need.” 

The library finds lots of ways to nourish their young patrons. Members of the Cleveland Orchestra have played at the library. Area artists donate time to help students explore different ways to be creative. Cleveland State students offer tutoring help. 

“Part of the history and tradition of this branch — caring for children — has always been what Sterling is about,” said Rudzinski. “I sensed it when I came here five years ago. You feel it, and you continue it.” 

Children's librarian Angela Csia helps a student navigate a notebook on a Tech Tuesday at the Sterling branch of the Cleveland Public Library. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)
Children’s librarian Angela Csia helps a student navigate a notebook on a Tech Tuesday at the Sterling branch of the Cleveland Public Library. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)

She says children are waiting at the door when the library opens on weekends. 

“Some will come in here on a Saturday and tell me they have a headache,” she says. “Right away I think, ‘Do they need glasses?’ But we know the kids are just hungry. So we get big bags of cereal for not much money, and we can feed them on the weekend. There might be an ice cream truck that comes around in the summer, so we will buy them ice cream treats. Just impromptu things like that, other kids might take for granted. But there is no ice cream store anywhere near here.” 

Angela Csia, children’s librarian, says that at their 6,500-square-foot branch, they give out lunches every weekday, 10,000 a year. “They never taught that in grad school,” she says. 

“These kids have a certain numbness, I don’t think ‘war zone’ is an exaggeration,” she says, her eyes tearing up. “Recently, at 5 p.m., in broad daylight, a 32-year-old man was shot and killed just down the street. It’s a busy intersection. Some kids were witnesses. Student after student came in to tell us about it, and they said it matter-of-factly, with no emotion. Imagine what it does to your body and your psyche to have to be on constant alert.” 

She looks over the students now in the library. It is nearing 5 p.m., and most of the kids don’t look like they plan to leave any time soon. “It’s one thing not to have food or a cell phone, but if you don’t feel safe, or don’t feel like you can sleep,” she shakes her head, knowing that is the case with many of these children. But, she says, she is glad that the library and the staff can provide a safe space that the youths can count on every day. 

“It isn’t about books,” she says. “It’s about relationships and caring.”

Read the full story from Cleveland.com and see more photos here.

Sterling library and Woodland library, located at 5806 Woodland Ave.) offer free tutoring. Get dates and details here.

Frontline Services partnership puts trauma in the spotlight

Frontline Services partnership puts trauma in the spotlight

When compared to other Cleveland neighborhoods, Central has the second highest rate of aggravated assaults and the fifth highest rate of reported domestic violence incidents. Children witnessing or being victims of violence is common in Central and can have lasting impacts on children and their ability to go to school ready and prepared to learn. A traumatic event can significantly interrupt the school routine and the processes of teaching and learning. This is why Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood decided to partner with Frontline Services to offer trauma training in two Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools in the Central neighborhood.

Cleveland’s News Channel 5 WEWS-TV recently highlighted the partnership between Promise Neighborhood, Frontline and Cleveland Metropolitan School District:

Brain scans show how trauma affects development in children.
Brain scans show how trauma affects development in children.

It’s something most students living in or around the Cleveland Metropolitan School district can’t avoid — hearing or at least seeing trauma.

“In their homes, and in their community and even walking to and from school,” said Rosemary Creeden, Associate Director of Trauma Services at the non-profit Frontline.

Earlier this year, the CDC reported one in five high school students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District tried to take their own life in 2015.

Creeden says this just underscores the level of trauma they’re dealing with, in and outside the home.

So CMSD wants their students to overcome the odds and they’re working with teachers first. Teachers like Mr. Michael Phillips.

“For me, I just feel like I never dealt with that,” he said. “They have a different experience than I’ve got and I feel like I’m learning from them. But at the same time, they come in sometimes scared, or nervous.”

Teaching math to students grades 6th through 8th at Alfred Benesch Elementary School for the past three years, he said on a daily basis he hears his students talk about their fears and problems.

He listens but wishes there was more he could do.

That’s why CMSD has started trauma training for him and other teachers. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood brought the idea of trauma training to CMSD.

Frontline, a mental health crisis non-profit, walks teachers through the warning signs, bringing awareness to the impact of trauma on kids.

Creeden said now that research reveals more about how traumatic events affect students ability to focus, they can help teachers see, spot, and deal with these tough situations before they get worse.

“Behaviors that they might see in the classroom, may look like misbehavior, but really it’s a reaction to the trauma’s that they’re seeing in their homes and in their community,” she said.

While students of all ages face different degrees of mental and emotional trauma, no matter the area they grow up in, Creeden said children in lower socioeconomic status areas typically experience higher levels of trauma-induced stress.

This is the very first time Cleveland schools have done this particular type of training for teachers. Alfred Benesch Elementary is the second school that has gone through the training so far this year.

Watch the News Channel 5 story here.

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District News Bureau also highlighted the program. Read more here.


Presidents’ Council’s conference brings together African-American business owners

Presidents’ Council’s conference brings together African-American business owners

Lowell Perry Jr. 

I had the recent pleasure of participating in Northeast Ohio’s first African-American entrepreneurship conference, presented by the President’s Council, President’s Council Business Chamber and President’s Council Foundation, in collaboration with Downtown Cleveland Alliance and the Greater Cleveland Partnership Commission on Economic Inclusion. The event was also part of the yearlong community-wide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Central’s own Carl Stokes’ election as mayor of Cleveland.

The Northeast Ohio African American Entrepreneurship Conference was comprised of two days of activities which sought to better integrate sustainability efforts into daily actions and remove barriers to inclusion by unlocking the collaborative power of business, government, nonprofit, and civil society. The event brought together all those who share the President Council’s mission of closing gaps that negatively impact minority communities, have a shared passion for and understanding of the issues and needs of African-American business owners; and actively seek progress in removing barriers linked to those challenges.

A clear message was sent that thriving black-owned businesses are fundamentally essential to the economic empowerment and sustainability of our community.  In addition to the economic missive, there was extensive discussion around the importance of mentoring both aspiring entrepreneurs and the next generation of young people.

Morning keynote speaker David E. Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee for the Republican National Convention spoke to the importance of collaboration. All of the endeavors he manages require a special kind of bringing people and resources together to achieve success. In many ways, his approach captures the essence of the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood where coming together as a collective body around a common purpose is the order of the day.

The afternoon keynote was delivered by Susan L. Taylor, Founder & CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, and Editor Emerita of Essence Magazine. Susan is an iconic figure in the African-American community. She is a true soldier for kids, and someone I have had the pleasure of collaborating with for a long-time. Her personal and professional testimony is fascinating, inspiring, and a clarion call to action for people who care about those less fortunate. She stressed the critical need for mentoring young people, and why it is so important that we as adults take time to ourselves to regenerate and make sure we are at our optimum best if we are to make a difference in the lives of others. If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak – do it!

Our young people need to see more business people, men and women who look like them who are finding success in the world of business. That is a big part of the transformational change we are looking to make in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Entrepreneurship can be a real way forward for the next generation. They need to experience this kind of an event to better understand that entrepreneurship is in our DNA as African-Americans.

Read more about the event on Cleveland.com.