By Jamal Robinson, IT systems engineer, Progressive Insurance
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing to help others?” A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights activist I most admire.
This quote has been a driving factor in my personal and professional life. Community involvement to me means that I have the opportunity to inspire. Growing up, I had the opportunity to attend the Boys and Girls Clubs for two summers.
That experience was important to the development of life skills. I mention this because I now realize the bigger meaning in using community involvement to serve as a role model for children who are not exposed to many, or in some cases any, successful individuals.
Volunteering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland has been one of the most rewarding activities that I have completed. I say this because I now realize the bigger picture of the Boys and Girls Clubs and how I have a direct impact to help children in underprivileged communities.
Because of my great volunteer experiences, I joined the Young Leaders marketing subcommittee in January 2018.
Jamal Robinson was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, when he was 12. Jamal completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia State University located in Downtown Atlanta. While attending Georgia State University, Jamal studied Computer Information Systems and graduated in 2017. Jamal was selected to complete an IT Internship at Progressive Insurance, located in Mayfield Village, Ohio, in the summer of 2017. After the internship, he was offered a full-time position working as an IT Systems Engineer with the infrastructure support team. Feel free to reach out to Jamal about community involvement, sports and new technology.
It’s easy to get the attention of kids when you show up in a Santa hat bearing gifts. But on this crisp, snowy night, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders did more than just play Kris Kringle for the evening. They also made another stride in their continued mission to help children at King Kennedy Boys & Girls Clubs find the path to success.
Members of the Young Leaders cabinet walked into the club Dec. 14 with brightly wrapped boxes of presents specially chosen to inspire both fun and learning.
“We always want the kids to have fun, but we also want them to develop the kinds of skills they can put to use at school and at home,” said Bill Donatone, Young Leaders cabinet co-chair. “They have so much potential and we’re dedicated to ensuring they rise to that potential.”
“When we see how the kids respond we can tell this is making a difference. We want them to thrive in life, and you know what? They will.”
– Logan Broadbent, Young Leaders cabinet co-chair
The gifts, purchased through donations raised by this year’s Young Leaders, included multiple games of checkers, Pictionary, Mancala and Connect Four, along with Wii remote controls. Some of the children broke into new packs of Uno and flash cards, while others put jump ropes and pool cues to immediate use.
Santa’s bag was also filled with 100 books donated by Scholastic Inc. in support of Young Leaders’ adopted mission of reducing the low-income achievement gap for children at the club. The group’s earlier projects included raising funds to establish special reading rooms in several local schools.
United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders are rising professionals in their twenties and thirties who work to make our community better through philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. The program boasts a network of more than 2,000 members.
Young Leaders set example for volunteers of the future
While the children were certainly surprised by the gifts, they were already quite familiar with the faces that delivered them. These Young Leaders have forged a close relationship with the boys and girls at King Kennedy over the past year, visiting the club monthly and engaging in activities with the children to teach social skills.
Some activities and skills could entail playing basketball or billiards together to impart lessons in good sportsmanship, or eating lunch as a group and encouraging the children to focus on good nutrition and cleaning up after a meal.
One of the girls told United Way of Greater Cleveland the visits and mentoring she received from Young Leaders instilled more confidence in herself.
“I feel like they really cared about me and want me to do well,” said 10-year-old Rocsheil Taylor. “We also have a really good time together!”
Watch the Event
The Young Leaders cabinet debuted the latest installment of their Readers Become Leaders room at Harrison Elementary School in Lakewood on Dec. 1.
The funding to install this room came from funds raised at Fall Ball. This yearly event is a collaboration with United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Community Impact department and a donation from the Cleveland Kid’s Book Bank.
The Harrison Elementary site is the third reading room installment, with one already in existence at Superior Elementary and Thoreau Park. The Readers Become Leaders’ program is slowly becoming a favorite event among the Young Leaders’ cabinet. “The looks on the kids’ faces is what makes it so worthwhile,” said Bill Donatone, co-chair of the Young Leaders’ cabinet. Allison Taller Reich, Young Leaders’ co-chair added, “It’s also hilarious when they enjoy us reading to them and they engage in the story!”
Students from kindergarten to second grade visited the room for the first time on opening day since it’s been recreated with new books, furniture, decorations and more to make it as comfortable and exciting a learning environment as possible. The cabinet members read to the students and each student received a bookbag with books, a coloring book and crayons to take home. According to Sabrina Crawford, principal at Harrison, the bags were a hit. “Many of the students wanted to walk around with their bags on all day,” she noted.
The room is important for students because “they don’t see it as a place where they have to go, but a place they can choose to go to,” said Mrs. Crawford. “Now they [the students] have a special place that is a very comfortable, relaxed space where they can come read to one another, go in place of recess… they are excited about earning time in the room.”
The school also nominated fifth graders as “reading ambassadors” who will help keep the room organized and act as room assistants with students from younger grades.
This installment featured Bill Lacey, president and CEO of GE Lighting. Bill, a 25-year veteran of GE, has lived in numerous cities other than Cleveland and started the talk by sharing that Cleveland is one of his favorite places.
“Cleveland has reinvented itself in a way that has to be noted,” he mentioned.
When change happens
It’s no secret that GE has gone through its own restructuring throughout the years. Bill mentioned that during his time at GE there were many tough conversations and hard decisions that needed to occur to enact change. He clearly stated that to create change in a workforce that transparency is key.
His strategy during organizational change was to keep innovation teams separate from those not involved in organizational change; waiting until there was “proof that the change was needed” before combining the teams together.
Standing out, making connections
Perhaps the best part of the whole talk was Bill acknowledging that while he was coming up in finance he didn’t always look like all the others in the room from a racial perspective. When he was asked by the group how he navigated that challenge, he mentioned that people are more alike than not, and they can look beyond superficial differences when they work together and get to know each other.
“It’s incumbent to realize that some people are uncomfortable, so I had to put myself in front of them, ignore it to some degree, and get done what needed to get done.” He also acknowledged that people sometimes feel uncomfortable stepping outside of their comfort zones, mentioning he often put himself front and center so that people would interact with him and get to know him.
During the Q&A session, Bill was asked about maintaining a positive work-life balance. He noted that there is a sacrifice, but “when you’re home, you’re home” and sometimes you need to draw a line in the sand even if it means taking a career hit.
He concluded the session encouraging those in attendance to give back to the community by finding where your passions are and finding a place to “enhance that passion.”
Watch the entire speaker series event with Bill Lacey from GE Lighting below.
By Maria Oldenburg, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Intern, Affinity and Association Campaigns
With two younger sisters, it’s pretty hard not to love kids. So I was super excited to spend time playing with children at the King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club on East 59th Street with volunteers from the Young Leaders group on July 11. Armed with bags of balls, hula hoops, chalk, bubbles and racquetball games, we spent almost two hours reliving our childhoods playing with the kids.
We were surrounded by these little kids as soon as we brought out all of our toys. The reason? Well, it’s because the kids didn’t necessarily get to play with toys, like the ones we brought, at home or the Club. They were also quite excited about their new playmates; and their enthusiasm was so contagious!
They made the time fly by so quick. All of the kids that I had the chance to interact with were incredibly sweet and inviting, showing me their best tricks and giving me advice on how to get better at the hula hoop — even though I haven’t played in years. By the end of the event, I felt like a hula hoop pro!
I also got to spend a lot of time playing tag, chalking and tossing a Frisbee with them. In addition to playing games, we had the chance to listen to the kids’ stories and support them in any way we could. It was wonderful hearing the kids tell us their plans for the future. One of the boys, who was especially good at hula hooping, wanted to be a photographer and we were able to give him, as well as the rest of the group advice. It was a really positive, humbling experience to say the least.
The Young Leaders visit the King Kennedy club once-a-month in order to share their time with the children. You can find out more information and sign up for the next Day of Action here.
By Heather Light, Associate-Affinity and Association Campaigns
It’s been a bucket list item of mine for quite some time now to attend a Rock Hall induction. I can now cross it off my list with a little help from the Rock Hall’s new Power of Rock Experience.
On Thursday, June 29, I was granted VIP access to the debut of the Rock Hall’s latest exhibit, but I might as well have been front and center at an induction. Name an influential rock and roller and they’re most likely in the 12 minute-film that starts with Ruth Brown singing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” highlighting the start of rock’s roots and ends with Prince’s infamous guitar solo during “While my guitar Gently Weeps” from the 2004 induction of George Harrison.
I’ll admit my emotions were a mix of wanting to shout out “long live rock!” and jump up and down and also cry contemplating of the talent that we’ve lost. It wasn’t by coincidence that Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, explained that the whole point of the exhibit is to take you on the emotional journey so many of us have while listening to music.
After the film, people will be able to interact with Rock Hall inductees and have personal memories captured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the Say It Loud story booths, presented by PNC Bank, fans are interviewed by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, including Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Smokey Robinson, Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Alice Cooper and others. The interviews can then be shared on social media.
You’ll be able to do all this September 23 during this year’s Fall Ball. Your ticket grants you access to the world renowned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you went last year, it will feel like a whole new museum. Another exciting announcement is the addition of Cleveland’s “rock star chef’s” Jonathan Sawyer Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Trentina), Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit) and Fabio Salerno (Lago) have now added their flair to the Rock Hall’s food choices; and I’m happy to announce to Fall Ball’s menu as well.
On June 7, more than 40 young professionals met at American Greetings headquarters in Cleveland, near Crocker Park, to attend United Way of Greater Cleveland’s second quarterly speaker series of 2017.
After first being led on a tour of the new, state-of-the-art building that houses American Greetings and exemplifies the company’s dedication to collaboration, attendees listened to an engaging, audience-driven talk by Group Vice President of Social Expression, Steve Laserson.
Laserson shared his journey of professional growth and recalled how he navigated various career fields at different organizations before discovering American Greetings, the organization he is truly passionate about and has been for more than 22 years.
He advised audience members on how to attain the same successful transitions by working hard and consistently producing positive results no matter what position they were in to ensure future employers would recognize their achievements.
He also answered questions from the audience surrounding the importance of community and volunteer engagement, goal-setting and mentor and mentee relationships. The event moved to the nearby Burntwood Tavern for refreshments and networking when the event concluded.
By Sam Ameen, communications coordinator, Public Relations, Parma City School District
Thoreau Park Elementary Principal Jamie Franko was anxious to see the Reading Room the school was receiving from United Way of Greater Cleveland courtesy of the of Young Leaders and its Readers Become Leaders initiative. On May 12, the room was revealed to the students, faculty and staff.
“We’ve been really excited that we were given this opportunity. I’ve been really excited since they reached out to me in December and said that we were going to be the recipients of the room,” Franko said. “It totally went above and beyond my expectations for what I thought the Reading Room was going to look like.”
The room has an outer-space theme and was furnished with comfortable places to lounge and read a book, such as beanbag chairs. The Reading Room was supplied with 500 books, which were donated by the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank.
“It’s just another space in our building that really focuses on literacy and helps our students with early literacy and growing as students here,” Franko said.
“Kids were saying this is the greatest thing ever, they were thanking the Young Leaders, the volunteers for everything that they’ve done and I think just really made their day and it has already impacted our building,” Franko said.
The Reading Room is located outside of Principal Franko’s office in the main hallway for ease of access.
With high school graduation rates on the rise, more students are entering the working world with a high school diploma or equivalent than ever before. Moving toward financial stability, students in Greater Cleveland have a number of options after high school—from entering the workforce to attending a university—and there are support services for whatever path students choose.
Attending a College or University
Many higher-paying positions require some type of degree or certificate. Many schools offer scholarships for continuing education opportunities, and outside organizations like College Now of Greater Cleveland provide further funding avenues, as well as mentorship and counseling opportunities.
Learning a Trade
For recent grads who don’t want to spend another four years in school but would like to secure a stable, good-paying job, trade schools offer an attractive alternative. While many high schools have done away with their vocational programs, many community colleges and organizations offer partnerships with businesses to provide continuing education opportunities.
For example, The Centers for Families and Children’s El Barrio Workforce Development program, funded in part by United Way of Greater Cleveland, offers training in hospitality and service industries. It also maintains partnerships with Cuyahoga County Community College and the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to offer three-month programs for mechanics and train or bus operators.
Going Directly into the Workforce
Some students may choose to move directly into the working world, and they can find stable employment in several industries throughout Greater Cleveland, including restaurant, retail, and nonprofit work.
Cleveland is a nationally recognized foodie paradise and offers recent graduates the chance to work in everything from Korean barbecue to rooftop bars and lounges. The restaurant industry can prepare employees for future careers in culinary arts and possible entrepreneurship.
Retail work can help anyone from fashionistas at major labels to tech-heads working at a computer repair store find their niche.
Programs like Youth Opportunities Unlimited’s Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates can provide career coaching and support, including career exploration, summer job placements, and internships.
These are just a few of the many partners working with United Way of Greater Cleveland to find financial stability for recent high school graduates. Whether grads hope to pursue continuing education opportunities or enter the workforce directly, options abound!
Photo Credit: US Department of Education
Engagement and growth were the driving themes in 2016. The future continues to shine bright thanks to the sustained effort, hard work and dedication put forth by our Young Leaders Cabinet and most importantly… YOU! Our collective effort has helped improve the lives of more than 450,000 Greater Clevelanders this year –and we are eternally grateful for your support.
We see great opportunities to consistently identify new and unique ways for young professionals to enhance their engagement through United Way as we think ahead to 2017 and beyond. Your continued support and volunteerism will make a lasting impact on the basic needs of our community. Continue reading “Letter from Young Leaders Co-Chairs”