Speakers promote the power of volunteering

By Patrick Kaminowski

Dec. 11, 2017

Cleveland State University students had the chance to listen to stories of powerful community service work from four different individuals in the Northeast Ohio area.

The Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs hosted In Service: Saving the World, a panel discussion, on Dec. 1.

The panel consisted of Chris Alvarado of Slavic Village Development, Kaila Johnson from The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, Bridget McFadden of College Now Greater Cleveland and Terence Menefee, Ph.D, principal of John Adams High School in Cleveland.

Panelists told their own personal history of how they grew interest in helping the public and how the organizations are making a difference in people’s lives.

Johnson, program specialist at The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, described the mission of The Diversity Center as making an attempt to eliminate bias, bigotry and racism in workplaces and communities.

She encourages the youths around her to understand that “diversity extends beyond race.”

Chris Alvarado, executive director of Slavic Village Development, a community development corporation told the audience how his organization tries to grow the southeast neighborhood of Cleveland by designing projects that can turn vacant land held back by banks over to the citizens, businesses and organizations.

Alvarado said that the most unique aspect of Slavic Village is that it truly reflects the racial diversity of Cleveland as a whole with its variety of ethnicities.

McFadden introduced herself and her work with College Now Greater Cleveland. She explained the organization started as a scholarship program, but she and others realized that boosting post-secondary education would need more funding. College Now then became a full service, college- and career- oriented program.

One of the most distinguishing factors of College Now is that it caters to not only traditional four year college programs, but to more technical schools and specialized vocations.

Scholarship recipients hold a 69 percent average graduation rate, compared to the national average of 18 percent for similar students from low-income backgrounds.

Menefee, a Cleveland State alumnus, said that as principal of John Adams High School, he strives to put students on the best path to successful lives.

He explained his own troubled past ended in incarceration, but it is how he found his calling to mentor youth.

All panelists gave detailed answers to what or how their passion for volunteer work originated. Panelists stressed the sense of togetherness and desire to be involved in a purpose-driven community they experienced in the work they do.

The four speakers urged students interested in pursuing volunteer roles to put forth an effort to make a difference.

“Join a board, join an organization, get involved,” Alvarado said. Because that’s where you develop some amazing skills that you didn’t even know you have.”



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