Tag Archive for: Cleveland

Meet Juan M. and Tyeishia L.; Two Lives Transformed by the Parma Adult Education Program

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years. We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months.

This week’s guest blog post comes from Nanette Penny, Communication Specialist, Adult Education Services, Parma City School District.

For more than 50 years the Parma City School District’s Adult Education Program has been dedicated to helping adult students achieve their literacy and educational goals. What began as a small program in the Parma area has blossomed into an expansive literacy powerhouse across the Greater Cleveland area. With over 30 different sites holding classes that specialize in Adult Basic Education, GED© Preparation, Workforce Training, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), English Languages/Civics Education, TOFEL Test Preparation, US Citizenship Test Preparation and College Success Workshops, Parma Adult Education has impacted the lives of thousands of Cuyahoga County residents.

Parma Adult Education students are transforming their lives through education. They are learning new skills, achieving objectives, and impacting the world. Read on for stories of real students who have succeeded in the Parma Adult Education program.

Juan M.

Parma Adult Ed stories- JuanJuan is a 58-year-old veteran who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. To escape the poverty and violence around him, he joined the army at the age of seventeen and served in Panama where he was trained as a Combat Medic. After an honorable discharge, Juan returned to Chicago and embarked on a music career. He always had a talent for music, and he played as a percussionist with bands in the Latin night clubs. Although his music career was very successful, Juan became too involved with the darker aspects of night life and developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After struggling for many years, Juan joined a church support group that helped him overcome his addictions. He played music for the church, got a job as a CNC programmer in a factory, and got married. Several years later, however, everything fell apart. He got a divorce and relapsed into drug use. He overdosed on the street and was transported to the hospital by the police in the city where he now lives – Cleveland, Ohio. He was then transferred to the Matt Talbot Inn, a rehab facility, where he completed a 60-day recovery program.

While Juan was a client at the Matt Talbot Inn, counselors saw something special in him. They told him that if he stayed sober and got his GED, they would hire him as a mentor to younger residents at the facility. In March of 2016 Juan officially passed his GED test! He has begun working as a third shift attendant at the Matt Talbot Inn and has already spoken with a representative from Cuyahoga Community College about enrolling in a Chemical Dependence certificate program. He has a deep desire to give back to his community and is grateful for every opportunity to do so.

Tyeishia L.

Parma Adult Ed stories- TyeishaTyeishia, 24 years old with a two year old daughter, had lived in her car or slept on a mattress at a different home every night for more than a year because she had no money for a place of her own. She felt hopeless, stuck earning $8 an hour at a local photo shop and barely paying her bills. Unfortunately, Tyeishia lacked the skills or experience to change the pattern of living paycheck to paycheck.

But then she heard about NewBridge. Finding out about this opportunity “saved my life,” she said, adding that the fact our courses are free meant she could move toward a career without going into debt.

But her challenges did not end there. Tyeishia had trouble passing the basic skills test needed to become a student. But NewBridge made sure that she had the help she needed to overcome this obstacle. Using our free tutoring and refresher training, Tyeishia finally passed the test.

She made it clear, during the interview process, that NewBridge was a lifeline for her. “My life depends on this,” she said, as she could not support herself and her daughter on minimum wage jobs. “I need a career and I need it now.” Unfortunately, even after acceptance into the program, she still faced other obstacles. Even though NewBridge is free, she still needed to work to pay her bills and support her daughter. But doing so, as well as taking classes and taking care of her toddler, left her exhausted. According to Tyeishia, she was so tired that she had trouble staying awake during class.

But that’s where NewBridge’s supportive, nurturing environment came into play as her classmates and teacher provided her with the support she needed to make it through to graduation. “We were a family. We all loved each other, looked out for each other, including bringing food when others didn’t have it,” Tyeishia says. Also, her teacher brought her free bus passes when her car broke down so that she could get to and from class.

Tyeishia learned not only how to be a phlebotomist, but also how to be a professional, using the technical skills and workplace skills that NewBridge makes a central part of our program. Her skills only increased during the externship that NewBridge provides as part of an agreement with University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth. “I became one with the needle,” Tyeishia joked. This training and experience put her in demand and she just landed a job with the Cleveland Clinic.

Now, not only does Tyeishia have her own apartment, but she has the time to be a much greater part of her daughter’s life. Beforehand she only had the time to feed her daughter and put her to bed each night, but that’s no longer the case.

NewBridge changed her entire perspective, Tyeishia said. After our program, “I felt like I was going to be okay,” Tyeishia said, adding “I wasn’t drowning anymore.”

To learn more about Parma Adult Education Services head over to their website, www.parmacityschools.org/Adulted.

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland – Committed to Creating Lifelong Readers

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years. We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months.

This week’s guest blog post comes from The Children’s Museum of Cleveland written by Kelsey Tarase, Museum Educator.

Children's Museum - Future home

The future home of The Children’s Museum of Cleveland at 3813 Euclid Avenue

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland was established in 1981 by a coalition of parents, educators and civic leaders who were passionate about the education of young children and the whole family role in the education of those children. Over the past two decades, the Museum has evolved from merely providing outreach programs and one traveling exhibit, to being known as the only cultural and educational resource completely dedicated to young children in the Cleveland area. In the last ten years the Museum has welcomed an average of 100,000 visitors annually and is the only museum in Northeast Ohio that is devoted exclusively to children ages birth to 8 years old.

As we celebrate our success of the last decade we look towards to the next decade and the process of rebirth. In December 2014, the Museum purchased the historic Stager Beckwith mansion in the Midtown neighborhood of Cleveland for its first permanent home in its history. Due to its lease not being renewed, the Museum closed its University Circle facility on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 and began to serve the community through a dynamic series of programs held throughout Northeast Ohio. These programs will continue until the renovation in Midtown is complete and the Museum is ready to open its new home to visitors.

Children's Museum - Hooked on Books

A Children’s Museum Educator leads “Hooked on Books” at our former University Circle Location

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland staff has embraced this transitional period as a chance to go back to grassroots efforts in engaging families within their own communities and promote learning through play. As The Children’s Museum staff ventures out across Northeast Ohio, we have found that the great connector among all people is a story. Stories are a great equalizer among families; when we start a lesson families may come from different educational, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds, but by starting a lesson with a story we are creating an equalizer; we are allowing all participants to share in the experience given in that story. As the recently popular young adult author John Green states, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” Stories, such as the ones Green alludes to, have the power to create a level playing field and a mutual connection that can only be achieved upon sharing that experience.

Leveling the playing field and creating this mutual connection among families, through literacy programs is more important than ever. As a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Education shows, only 20% of fourth-grade students from low-income communities read proficiently while 51% of fourth graders from higher income families read proficiently. This statistic shows that overcoming economic barriers is a critical point in equalizing the literacy proficiency discrepancies between families with different socio-economic backgrounds. Education standards being set now, such as those in the Third-Grade Guarantee, combined with the research on the importance of early childhood literacy and its impact on the individual’s literacy throughout their lifetime, has demonstrated that engaging parents and young children is critical in the creation of lifelong readers.

Children's Museum Renderings

Renderings of exhibit plans for the future home of The Children’s Museum of Cleveland

As The Children’s Museum staff commits to creating lifelong readers and engages with young children across Northeast Ohio, we teach lessons on phonemic awareness, site words, and reading comprehension. Through these lessons we are not only trying to pass on a bit of information to the child, but also engage the whole family in creating a meaningful experience that will open the doors for them to seek out literacy programs. The children’s author Emilie Buchwald said it best “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” The Children’s Museum of Cleveland has always been committed to the fact that the parent is a child’s first teacher. If we as a Museum can engage caregivers so that they view literacy positively and promote reading, then their children are more likely to become children who love to read. These children are better able to explore words and concepts and use language as a tool to guide their understanding of the world. As The Children’s Museum of Cleveland plans its’ exhibit space for its’ future home at the Stager Beckwith mansion, staff continually questions where there can be more spaces for parents and children to gather to share both oral and written stories – to communicate, learn and play with other Ohio families as they all connect together as one community, grounded in learning through play.

Ten years from now we see The Children’s Museum of Cleveland being a resource for families in Northeast Ohio and a center for learning through play. We see it as a great equalizer where all families can come to learn, grow, explore, read, and play together regardless of socio-economic, physical, cultural, and other barriers. We see it as a place where caregivers from across Northeast Ohio can bring their child and share stories of their childhood, their culture, and their experience with other families, and also create new stories together. As the Children’s Museum plans this museum for all Northeast Ohio families we want to know: what are the meaningful books you read as a child? What are the stories that have shaped your view of the world? What are the stories that The Children’s Museum of Cleveland must tell that will connect with families to create the next generation of storytellers?

Learn More about The Children’s Museum on their website: http://www.clevelandchildrensmuseum.org/.

Be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Ten Years With America SCORES Cleveland – Donte’s Story of Continued Growth and Success

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years.  We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months. 

Our first guest post comes from America SCORES Cleveland, written by Boo Geisse, Program Manager.

America SCORES Cleveland - Core Group Photo - Poetry Slam 2015

America SCORES Cleveland, Core Group at Poetry SLAM! 2015

Ten years ago, Donte Washington was a second grader at Empire Computech Elementary School in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. An exceptional student from a religious, two-parent home, Donte struggled not with academics or poor behavior but with low self-confidence and extreme shyness.

“I was introverted, quiet, not willing to do anything,” he says. “I was a kid who didn’t participate in anything.”

Enter America SCORES Cleveland. A literacy and health youth development organization, America SCORES Cleveland impacts Cleveland youth by providing soccer and writing instruction after school.

When Donte first encountered SCORES in 2006, the organization was only two years old and had just expanded into the east side of Cleveland. Luckily for Donte, his school was one of them.

“I didn’t think I was going to like it,” he admits. “I had no idea what soccer was. I had never written a poem in my life.”

Donte’s comments are typical, repeated hundreds if not thousands of times in the ears of SCORES staff members. Soccer in the inner city? Poetry for youth who struggle to read and write? The odds seemed stacked against it.

Yet in the twelve years SCORES has run its unique programming in Cleveland city schools, the results continue to impress, and impress upon we who work for SCORES, the significance of the organization.

Ten years ago, America SCORES Cleveland was a small grassroots organization struggling to survive. Today, SCORES spans nine Cleveland schools in five neighborhoods and is geared for greater growth.

“When I came on, we were a three-person staff in seven schools, with only one program per school,” says Executive Director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.

SCORES was on uncertain ground when Debi started. In her first two months at the organization, she hired Matthew Williams, Program Director. A year later she brought Paul Khacherian on board as Associate Director. All three remain at SCORES today, and, with an additional two full-time staff members and a core group of dedicated interns, the program has grown to serve over 600 youths each year.

Here’s the breakdown: In 2008, SCORES expanded its 3rd-5th grade programming to include 6th-8th graders, growing the program alongside its dedicated poet-athletes. 2012 saw the birth of the Alumni Program for high school students who aged out of typical programming. Today, alums referee SCORES soccer games, act as assistant coaches to existing SCORES teams, volunteer at SCORES events and participate in college and career readiness programs hosted at the SCORES office. In 2014, the organization grew yet again—this time to create a “Jr. SCORES” program for 1st and 2nd graders.

“We have quadrupled in size,” says Debi. And greater reach means greater impact.

“SCORES programming now serves a CMSD student for an eleven year continuum,” says Matthew. “SCORES has been able to breathe life into our schools and our neighborhoods by providing positive team activities.”

Donte America Scores Cleveland

Donte sharing his America SCORES experience at Poetry SLAM! in November, 2015

Nobody demonstrates this impact as fully as Donte. After that first season, he spent every year, every season in SCORES that he could. As a middle schooler, he was elected team captain by his soccer coach; he led warm-ups, ran drills and soccer practices and helped his team remain undefeated during his eighth grade year. In ninth grade, Donte emailed SCORES about staying involved—an inquiry that played a large part in the creation of the Alumni Program.

“[The SCORES staff] had had conversations about starting one,” Donte says. “And I just so happened to email them about staying in the program, and that’s what started it.”

Today, Donte remains one of SCORES’ most active alums. In addition to the work he does for SCORES, Donte is a high school senior, an employee at Marc’s and was recently accepted into Cleveland State University, where he will begin his college career this fall. Additionally, last November, when volunteering at SCORES’ signature annual event, the Poetry SLAM!, Donte was approached by a SCORES board member and offered a summer internship at a Cleveland company.

Of course, none of this surprises those who know him; Donte is recognized as a successful young man and a leader by all. From former coaches to SCORES staff, and poet-athletes to complete strangers, his presence leaves an indelible impression.

“Donte’s kindness, generosity and dedication are what have impressed me the most,” says Matthew, who has, alongside Debi and Paul, watched Donte grow up.

These types of comments still take the eighteen year old by surprise—but while he remains soft spoken and humble, Donte’s shyness is fading in the light of something new: a realization of who he truly is, and who he is to become.

“I have grown to be a leader,” he says. He contributes much of his transformation to his time with America SCORES Cleveland. “Without SCORES, I honestly don’t think I would be in the position I am today. SCORES kept me out of trouble. It taught me right from wrong. It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve had.”

As we at America SCORES Cleveland look back on the past ten years—of Donte’s life and our own—we can’t help but feel excited for the future. Donte plans to become a graphic designer; he’d like to design footwear and continue to volunteer and make positive change in his community.

And us? In addition to our regular programming, SCORES currently hosts four fundraising events each year, is on the national curriculum development team for all America SCORES’ affiliates, is a member of the Slavic Village P-16 Initiative, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture “Cultural Partner,” a GCNCA P4SS and MyCom partner agency and, last year, received its first financial support from United Way of Great Cleveland.

Despite all of this, SCORES has no plans on slowing down.

Feliciana - United Way Annual Meeting 3

Feliciana Hambrick-Thomas performing her poem, ‘Confusion,’ at United Way Annual Meeting March 4th, 2016

Ask Debi what her plans are for the future, and this is the answer you’ll receive: “In ten years we’ll have a staff of ten to twenty. We’ll be in twenty schools, and they’ll all host 1st through 8th grade programming. We’ll have a direct referral program for our alums and scholarships for our students for college.”

Some may think these goals lofty, but this mentality has not only kept America SCORES Cleveland alive all these years, it has made it thrive.

“I am inspired and humbled by the extraordinary youth I have the privilege to work with each day,” Debi says. “I continue to do this work because I believe these youth need a positive outlet for their creativity, and programs like America SCORES keep kids on the right path to achieve their full potential.”

We’ll drink (coffee) to that.

To learn more about America SCORES Cleveland head over to their website, www.americaSCOREScleveland.org

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well!