Cincinnati Youth Collaborative
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.
This is National Volunteer Week, seven days of celebrating the good will of millions across the country who have given of their time, their hearts, and their resources to enhance lives and causes that are meaningful to them.
Locally, large and small nonprofit organizations working to improve neighborhoods, strengthen families, save non-human animals, and lift people up could quite simply not do their very important work without the generosity of others. More than 8000 people give of their time to the FreeStore FoodBank alone. And that is just one of hundreds of causes in our Greater Cincinnati area.
Tonight I am told the staff and board members of nonprofit Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, that has empowered more than 160,000 vulnerable children and young adults since its founding through the mentorship of positive adult role models, will be very busy. They will be calling EVERY active CYC volunteer and thanking each one for his/her time and effort.
Wow, that is a lot of phone calls!
They will be reaching out to people like Harry Blanton, a CYC mentor for 18 years. His first mentee was Patrick, who at nine years old had an incarcerated father and a mother struggling with addiction. Thanks to Blanton’s influence in his life, Patrick attended St. Xavier High School, then Xavier University, and is now a financial counselor pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership. He and Harry are still close, and even recently attended CYC’s Trivia Night for Brighter Futures together, playing on the same team. “It is a joy to have Patrick in my life and I can’t imagine it without him,” said Harry.
The feeling is shared by Patrick. “I am an example that even though the cards are stacked against you, you can succeed if you have the right people on your side,” he attested. “CYC provided that person to me: Harry Blanton.”
Success stories like theirs is not uncommon at CYC. Just last fall, former mentee Lamont got married with his mentor Tim Clarke by his side – as none other than his best man. Matched when Lamont was just 13, the resulting relationship was so important to Lamont that instead of wedding favors, he gave a gift to CYC in honor of every wedding guest.
The gesture’s weight was not lost on Tim. “When I saw on the place setting the little card, I was unable to give the regular speech I had prepared,” he said. “I just had to thank him. For him to want a gift to give to CYC for this to happen to someone else—I got emotional. It was a great day.”
Volunteers are everywhere
These are such beautiful stories. And with those two, there are thousands more too of people all around us, and even ourselves, who are making a positive difference.
The dictionary definition of a volunteer is: a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself a service or undertaking. This means that to be a volunteer doesn’t necessarily mean you are going through a social service agency. It is as simple as an act of kindness to a stranger on the street or an extended hand or ear to a friend or loved one who needs someone to be there.
Today, let’s celebrate those wonderful gifts. But also, let’s commit to finding ways of giving those gifts every day.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation recently honored dynamic people whose commitment to philanthropy is helping to make our Greater Cincinnati community a better place for all of us.
Ed and Carole Rigaud are this year’s recipients of the Jacob E. Davis Volunteer Leadership Award, recognizing their leadership and generosity of time toward improving the quality of life in our region. The Award was named in honor of Jacob E. Davis, GCF’s first Governing Board Chair and Volunteer Director from 1978 to 1987.
The Rigauds’ names are synonymous with generosity and dedication. They have demonstrated these qualities in their professional, volunteer, and family lives. I have been fortunate to have seen Carole’s heart in action first hand during my eight year tenure working with Lighthouse Youth Services, one of her charitable causes.
During his 36 years at Procter & Gamble (P&G), Ed became the first African-American line vice president, eventually serving as vice president of government relations in North America. In 1998, he became the first president and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, on loan from P&G. Today, Ed is a co-director of Taft Business Consulting LLC. He is also the president and CEO of Enova Premier, LLC, automotive product supply and services.
Ed’s numerous volunteer roles include being a past member of the National Museum and Library Services Board, appointed by President Bush in 2002. His many volunteer activities include Honorary Chairman of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and serving on the boards of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University, and UC Physicians at the University of Cincinnati Medical College.
Carole has a long list of volunteer commitments and awards. She serves on the Lighthouse Youth Services and 4C for Children gala committees. She volunteers for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Lighthouse Youth Services, Advocates for Youth, The Women’s Alliance, The Healthcare Connection, and Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. Carole has served as the co-chair of the 2013 National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s International Freedom Conductor Awards and on the boards of GCF, Mount St. Joseph University, Cincinnati May Festival, Dress for Success, The Mercantile Library, Interact for Health, Cincinnati Museum Center, Northern Kentucky University Foundation, and The Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education.
Carole has been honored as an Enquirer Woman of the Year, a Girl Scouts Great Rivers Council Inc. Women of Distinction, and with the Lighthouse Youth Services 2010 Beacon of Light Humanitarian Award.
The GCF honored Foster & Motley Wealth Management with GCF’s Bridge Builder Award. The Bridge Builder Award is given each year to a professional advisor(s) who has been a supporter of the Foundation in multiple ways over many years.
Foster & Motley, Inc. is an independent SEC Registered Investment Advisor established in 1997. Its focus is to help its clients reach their financial goals. Its team of 32 employees provides the highest quality, customized, fee-only financial planning and investment services. They assist clients in managing well over $950 million in assets and provide comprehensive solutions to their complex financial and investing needs.
On October 10, the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative (CYC) will pay homage to young examples of perseverance and achievements, and the important role of caring adults in their lives, at its 10th annual Dream Makers Celebration: “Diplomas & Dreams” fundraiser.
Chloe Nared, a senior at Finneytown High School, and Shannon Chambers, a senior at Aiken College and Career, will each be receiving a $1,000 scholarship from the Cincinnati Bar Association Young Lawyers section. Against huge obstacles they have pushed their boundaries and found their own success.
Unlike so many of her classmates, Chloe didn’t know about stability growing up. With a mother who was unable to provide for her and a father who could not raise her, the little girl acted out – but only as a cry for help. She skipped school, got suspended, had poor grades and was influenced by negative peer pressure.
It was when her aunt saw Chloe’s potential, gained full guardianship and moved the young girl to Finneytown that Chloe’s life turned around. In a short time, the troubled teen has already learned what it is like to be on the A-Honor Roll.
In CCA, she has been the key source of motivating and connecting her peers. In her classroom, she has worked closely with speakers and helped organize career development meetings. On her school’s campus, she has played a key role in organizing social awareness projects and events. When one of her classmates lost her mother, Chloe took it upon herself to hold a collection.
And as for school, that suspended trouble maker is now a top student and has interned in an occupational therapy office, a career path she is now determined to see in her future.
Shannon took it upon himself to ask if he could live with a friend’s family so that he could make it to school on time; and now this young man of wisdom and integrity is third in his class with a 4.017 GPA. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the National Society for Black Engineers, and the leadership team of the Science Club; an officer of Men, Organized, Respectful and Educated; and captain of the wrestling, football and track teams. And, whenever he can, he gives back through community service.
Without any other mode of transportation, he walked from Finneytown to Western Hills so that he could turn in his essay to become a GE Scholars Program finalist (and he was accepted!). Shannon also won a $5,000 Straight A Scholarship from the Anthony Munoz Foundation.
His classmates look up to him as an inspiration and role model. It is easy to see why.
The CYC Dream Makers Celebration: “Diplomas & Dreams” will be held at The Phoenix, 812 Race Street. The keynote speaker will be Jimmy Wayne – a musician and entertainer who is a passionate advocate for vulnerable youth.
It will benefit CYC mentoring, college readiness and success, dropout prevention and career preparation services for students in Cincinnati Public Schools and four other public school districts.
For the second year in a row, Cincinnati has achieved national recognition as one of America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 Best Communities for Young People presented by ING for its initiatives to help young people. The competition recognizes communities across the country that focus on reducing high school dropout rates and providing service and support to their youth.
An awards ceremony this week will kick off a series of community engagement events designed to create and sustain a community-wide dialogue and movement that is all about providing young people the educational and personal development options that will help them to be successful in their adult lives.
Community partners include: ArtsWave, ArtWorks, Bridges for a Just Community, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, CET Connect, Cincinnati Public Schools, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, Jobs for Cincinnati Graduates, The Strive Partnership, The United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati Public Schools and many more.