Note: this is a guest post written by Nora Cordrey
As young people around the Tri-State and across the nation prepare for the rite of passage known as high school graduation, take a moment to think about the ones who had to overcome incredible odds to get there. In many families, going to college is a given. Other teens have never known an adult who finished high school and chose to continue their education. To many, that sends a less than positive message about the value of education.
As a volunteer with Big Brother Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, I’ve spent years mentoring Jamaysha. We met when she was 9—wide-eyed and full of spirit, but also a victim of a world she didn’t create. Her father died before she was born, she seldom sees her mother, her guardian passed away when Jamaysha was 14, and she’s been enrolled in five school districts because of constantly having to move.
Through it all, as her “Big Sister,” I have encouraged her to stay focused on her school and to take advantage of every opportunity. My husband and I learned of the Upward Bound program which assists first generation college-bound students with tutoring, enrichment activities and developing leadership skills. Once she was accepted into Upward Bound, Jamaysha committed to and has participated in the program for the last four years. This involvement, and her hard work, has helped prepare her for college. In the Fall, she will attend Cincinnati State, studying culinary arts.
My “Little Sister” is graduating from high school, one of the few members of her family to do so. She ranks 34th in a class of 220 with a grade point average of 3.13. She’s an inspiration. Not content to sit on the sidelines, and overcoming transportation issues, she found a way to participate in several extra-curricular activities and hold a job. She has learned the value and pleasure of giving back to the community and we have volunteered together at charity events. I believe Jamaysha will someday be an incredible mentor herself.
I am not Jamaysha’s only mentor and join teachers past and present, our Big Brothers Big Sisters case manager, the director of Upward Bound, Jamaysha’s family and others in congratulating her and all the other young people who are overcoming circumstances to find success.
As adults, we have a responsibility to the young people in our community. There are many more Tri-State children who need mentors, who need guides as they head into the future. The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati is to help children become successful in school and in life. Surely that’s what we all want and, surely, what all children deserve.
Consider becoming a mentor today.
“Baseball is such a metaphor with life. There is so much humility built into the game. We knew with the right volunteers and leadership, the League could bring that message home.”
~ Charley Frank, Cincinnati Reds Community Fund executive director
What a wonderful gift the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund has given local children in urban neighborhoods. Each summer for the past nine years, Schmidt Fields has been filled with laughter and hi-fives. Kids, many of whom had never picked up a baseball before, are creating memories, learning the fundamentals of America’s favorite pastime, and being prepared for an enriched life in a character-based curriculum.
The Cincinnati Reds Rookie Success League is a free summer coed camp. At Schmidt Field – two days a week there are more than 170 kids from YMCA of Greater Cincinnati afterschool programs and some from the Cincinnati Boys and Girls Clubs; and two days a week there are children from the Cincinnati Recreation Commission. There are also camps in Fairfield, Mason, and Louisville. Collectively, more than 1,500 children participated this year.
“At the YMCA we know participating in sports is a great way for teaching kids that being active is a lot of fun, and more than that, sports are also a great environment to build their confidence and teach them skills that will help them grow into positive, contributing adults later in life,” said Chuck Barlage, executive director of the Williams YMCA who coordinated the YMCA participation. “We are so appreciative to the Cincinnati Reds for stepping forward to provide these learning experiences for our kids.”
According to the Reds, minus interns and a handful of staff, the vast majority of the coaches are volunteers who care. Some of the Cincinnati Reds players also stopped by.
“The league is intended to teach the game in a very safe, fun and non-threatening environment,” said Charley Frank, executive director of the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund. “However, we want the kids to leave with familiarity with the “Six Stars of Success” that we teach each day – Cooperation; Integrity; Respect; Education; Determination and Spirit.”
About the Reds Community Fund:
Since its inception in 2001, the Reds Community Fund has used baseball as a vehicle to reach out to kids. As the nonprofit arm of baseball’s first professional team, the Community Fund strives to create programming that connects underserved children with baseball, while creating fundraising programs that connect baseball with the community. Whether it’s renovating baseball fields, providing opportunities to kids with disabilities, underwriting expenses for inner-city teams or hosting its “Reds Rookie Success League,” the Reds Community Fund is dedicated to improving the lives of youth through baseball. On the web at: www.redsyouthbaseball.org
Working with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, I am so fortunate to be continually inspired by the actions of those with whom I work and get to know. Lois Fischer is the office manager of the Clippard Family YMCA. She is someone with a huge heart and a passion for kids.
You can imagine the devastation for her – and her family – about five years ago when they tragically lost Andrew far too soon. Still in high school, Andrew loved life. He loved to learn and to share, to explore and to experience. All of those things he did through camp…
And so, through camp, Lois and her family want to carry on Andrew’s legacy. They created Andrew’s Kids Scholarship Fund to give kids in their area whose families otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it, those life changing moments at YMCA Camp Ernst. This year with the help of the YMCA, family and friends, they raised enough to provide 14 children with scholarships. I was there on the night that Lois handed on the certificates.
Below is a group photo (of those who could be there) and a video I created about it.
I love this. What a fun and creative way of encouraging positive values in children. When I visited the R.C. Durr YMCA preschool last week this caught my eye. Teachers there are on high alert every day…to catch good behavior. And from the looks of it, there is a lot of good behavior to recognize. It’s amazing how when you reinforce the behaviors you want to see more of, that’s exactly what you end up seeing.