A freshman at Northern Kentucky University, Jayren Andrews has already long established himself as a change agent.
Wise beyond his years, he is a young man driven to be a voice, a leader, and a role model for his peers, his neighborhood, his network, and even his world. While attending Shroder High School, Jayren competed at the state level in track and was on the second team All-Conference in football; and in his senior year, was an award winning public speaker. By 17, he was president of the Avondale Youth Council, guiding other young people to making good decisions. He is also one of two youth selected to serve on the Cincinnati Poverty Collaborative Steering Committee, and is very involved in college.
“Being on the Collaborative’s Executive Board was an opportunity to represent my neighborhood, Avondale,” he told me. “My concern was digging down and coming up with substantial solutions to help get people out of poverty. That opportunity was humbling to be with so many different people who all have the same goal.”
When he thinks about his own life and his motivation, Jayren will tell you it is those trials and tribulations that are your ‘defining moments of character’ and that learning from one’s failures is a key to accomplishment. His mentors through the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative are among those who have influenced his growth. Jamie Wilson, his CYC AmeriCorps College Guide, allowed him to absorb his shine for the moment, come back and be humble. “She showed me that hard work is everything. There really isn’t anything that you can’t accomplish,” he said.
Jayren paused as he recalled another person who has influenced his life, his little brother who was gone too soon, a baby who didn’t live to see his first day. “I think about him every day. I want to show him what kind of big brother I could have been,” Jayren told me.
Most recently honored by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati with its 2017 Youth Leadership Award, last year the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative recognized Jayren among its mentees as a 2016 Outstanding Student Award winner for his determination in overcoming life obstacles to find success in his education and in life.
To my question about what Jayren would like to do with the rest of his life, he answered, “At the end of the day, I want to leave the world better than I came into it.”
To that, I say, that goal has already happened. And I have no doubt Jayren’s little baby brother is proud.
It’s great to see people in our community, leaders and innovators in their fields, to step up and pave the way for future generations to carry on that legacy.
Lori and Bill Beer are doing just that with the establishment of a $500,000 Beer Family Endowed Scholarship Fund to benefit University of Cincinnati students, with a preference toward females, enrolled in the STEM programs of information systems and analytics at UC’s Lindner College of Business.
Chief Information Officer of the Corporate & Investment Bank at JPMorgan Chase & Co, Lori is known for navigating rapid change, particularly in the area of technology. David Szymanski, dean of UC’s Lindner, calls her a “remarkable role model for students.”
The Beers’ daughter, Christina Beer, BBA ’15, previously served as UC’s Student Body President and is now employed at GE Aviation. The Beers’ other children, Morgan and Patrick, are active students on campus and enrolled in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. In addition to being proud Bearcat parents, Lori and Bill have supported UC through the Bowties for Scholarships Fund, the Honors-PLUS Parents Fund and UCATS General Fund. Lori is a member of the UC Business Advisory Council.
“I advise young women to be continuous learners by being courageous and taking risks. By using their education and expanding their knowledge, they will leave a unique mark on the world. Our scholarship will help Lindner students do just this,” Lori said.
Can a village feed a city? Absolutely! And the entire student body at Indian Hill High School has been working with Suzy DeYoung and La Soupe, Julie Richardson, and Sugarcreek (a co-packer) to prove it can happen.
For two days, they have surrounded tables in their school cafeteria, slicing and dicing well over 5,000 quarts of vegetables that will go into at least 500 gallons of soup base made by Suzy’s team at La Soupe, put into containers with labels, and delivered to Master Provision food distributor for storage. Ultimately that soup will be given to local schools to feed hungry students.
“We did more today than we ever imagined we would. We thought 5,000 quarts was a pretty lofty goal before we began but we already surpassed it,” Cathy Levalley, director of Indian Hill High School’s PPO, told me when I stopped by Thursday morning. “Our kids are loving this and have asked if they can do more of these types of projects.”
As many in Cincinnati know, Suzy has a talent for creating savory recipes and a heart for helping others. Her La Soupe is a nonprofit organization that rescues otherwise wasted food and transforms it into delicious and nutritious soup for customers, and given away to charitable causes and those in need. Partners including Kroger, Jungle Jims, various local organic farms, and now Sugarcreek co-packer make it possible (as well as donations).
You could say that food has always been in her blood. Suzy’s father was head chef at the Maisonette, and her grandparents were chefs in New York. She and her sister ran La Petite Pierre in Madeira before she found her calling. “I didn’t understand how people can be hungry when all I saw was food. I came to realize that my most joyful time in that career was when I was looking for ways to give out the food that we would have waste.”
These days La Soupe gives out thousands of pounds of soup each year, and now that will be even more. Sugarcreek, Suzy told me, found a way to divert and average of about 20,000 edible products from their co-packers monthly. That will help to feed a lot of Tri-State families.
Suzy’s next project is raising money for a new annex and a second shift to up production. If you would like to help, please contact them at.
Dan Marshall will tell you, he does not have bad days. He only has character building days.
Seven years ago he stood before a packed auditorium for an Ignite Cincinnati Event, and reminded the young professionals that even when things are going bad, “you are going to learn something from them.”
It is on those character building days, he told them, that he reminds himself of these favorite mantras.
“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
“No matter how bad it seems, ‘it’s come to pass.’”
“Whether I think I can or I think I can’t, I am right.”
and “Do something.”
Dan is a man of character. He is someone whose hard knocks in life have taught him about resilience, action, self expression, love and a greater sense of humanity. As a father, it is important for him to be a role model to his young children – and to others – in living your best possible life, in giving selflessly, and in seeing the good that abounds. As an entrepreneur, a business consultant, a volunteer, and a speaker, he shares his knowledge to help others succeed.
And through his performances at local venues and events as LoopManDan, he opens up a whole new world of music.
More than just a typical solo acoustic act, LoopManDan conjures up the sound of an entire ensemble before audiences, creating rhythm, bass lines, harmonies and smooth leads using the effects of a loop pedal.
Lisa: Where do you think your positive outlook comes from?
Dan: That really stems from my childhood. I have had some of the most difficult of times, and I have come to know that that is when learning happens. I know that because I have been through worse things. When I was 9 my dad killed himself and that became part of my texture. I have looked my children in the eyes and told them, ‘I promise you I will not die like my dad did.’ I am very focused on seeing the positive in everything. Friends call me all the time and ask me to cheer them up.
Lisa: What is an accomplishment something of which you are most proud?
Dan: Definitely my three children and the beautiful people they are, and being part of their life. A couple stories come to mind.
My kids wanted to try out for the soccer team but were nervous. I told them that if they would try out, that I would audition for The Children’s Theatre production of Annie. I ended up being in 20 shows. That was a great lesson for us all. I was proud because I felt like I practiced what I preached, I took a chance, and because of that, I achieved. Even if I hadn’t gotten a role, I would have felt extremely accomplished for the example I set. I believe in stretching beyond your comfort zone and in teaching others to do the same, and that is what I did.
Another time we were all in a car at a drive through when I saw another car half way stuck in a parking space. I noticed an older woman having a hard time. I didn’t think twice about immediately pulling over and walking over to her. She was crying because she couldn’t get her car out of gear so I jumped in and moved her car for her. She gave me a big hug. When I got back into my car, one of my kids said to me, “Dad, you are a really good man,” and the other kids said, “yeah Dad, you stopped the car.”
That brings such pride to me. Some of my most proud accomplishments are when I have helped others.
Lisa: Tell us about someone who has been a positive influence on you.
Dan: There have been so many people. Definitely my voice teacher and band director at Indian Hill High School. I was in our marching band, sung in the select show choir and performed in school musicals. Musicians Stan Hertzman and Bobby Sharp are the closest to a local uncle and patriarch type figure I have. I was mentored by Jeffrey Moore, who started the marketing program for Hewlett Packard and authored a book called Crossing the Chasm.
I attended University of Cincinnati for a quarter and the left and got started in business very early and sold cars for eight years. That early exposure really helped to educate me. There have been some really great people who have included me with their businesses and kept sending me for management and sales training. Dean Butler, co-founder of LensCrafters, recruited me to be director of sales for PC Upgrades and was a big influence.
It is a dream of most girls, to step out in a gorgeous evening gown, a flower corsage on her wrist and a young man on her side as she enters the darkened space. Her peers crowd the floor, watching her enter in awe. Her smile illuminates the room.
But, if not for a local nonprofit organization, Kenzie’s Closet, that dream would not come true for hundreds of teens every year. Kathy Smith knows. She has seen them transform from forlorn, hopeless girls into bundles of joy and laughter when they see themselves in a mirror, just as their dream had pictured them.
At no cost to them, Kenzie’s Closet provides prom attire to juniors and seniors at accredited Tri-State high schools who otherwise would not be able to afford dressing up for their important occasion. Even more than that, the organization provides a shopping experience for each young lady to shop in a boutique with a volunteer personal shopper there to help select the perfect dress.
Kathy was executive director of Kenzie’s Closet for four years, retiring just before our ReelAbilities Film Festival, for which she served as our volunteer chair.
Lisa: Why is this a cause for which you are so passionate?
Kathy: When I was interviewed for my position, I remember being asked a very similar question. They wanted to know why I wanted the job. My answer was that, if Kenzie’s Closet had existed in 1968, I would have been a Kenzie’s Girl. The only reason I was able to go to my prom was because a neighbor bough me my dress. All of Kenzie’s Girls are at or below the poverty level. They don’t have the resources available to buy or rent fancy dresses. Prom should be the highlight of their life. It was important to me to make sure that each girl have the opportunity to get the dress of their dreams. They get brand new shoes, a purse, a wrap, two pieces of jewelry and free alterations; and they keep everything, although we have had many donate back their dresses so that another girl can have the same experience. We are planting the seeds of philanthropy early.
Lisa: Can you share any moments that really touched you?
Kathy: There are so many of them. I felt like we were in many ways like being Fairy Godmothers. Coming to Kenzie’s Closet for these teenagers is their time to shine. Often, they arrive expecting to find a sort of thrift shop but they quickly realize it is very different. They may be scared when they walk through the door and by the time they are finished, they are hugging their personal shopper.
I remember one young woman who came in with a group. She was very tall and large. She kept giving me this look out of the corner of her eyes. She told me with a hardness in her voice that she didn’t think we would have anything for her. I looked at her and said, “Guess what? You are totally wrong.”
After going through her shopping, I went up to her and asked what happened that day. She asked if I wanted the truth. Tears began streaming down her face. She told me that her entire life she had been given torn or tattered clothing and been expected to give thanks. I asked her again what had happened. This time she put her chin out and told me, “Not only did you have a dress to fit me, I got to pick my own prom dress. And there is nothing smack about it.”
Lisa: What are some of your take-aways from your time leading Kenzie’s Closet?
Kathy: I knew all along that we were making dreams come true for over 400 young ladies each year. But I also had my dream come true working there. Our founder was my boss and she was so supportive and believed in me – not everyone has that. I worked with two incredible women that made going to work a pleasure – again not everyone has that. We had about 120 volunteers each year; they were always so joyful and happy to be there — again this helped me have an incredible career. My time at Kenzie’s Closet was a dream come true for me!