CINCINNATI - Sabrina Stevenson carefully applied the small tip of her paintbrush to a tiny area of the clay pot she was making Tuesday.
Concentrating intently, the Westwood teenager made stroke after stroke in applying red paint to decorate her creation.
This isn’t just any artwork. It’s a project that will earn her a fine arts credit and allow her to graduate this spring from Aiken College and Career High School.
Stevenson is doing her work at Cincinnati Arts & Technology Center at Longworth Hall on Peter Rose Way in Queensgate.
The program is designed to make sure at-risk Cincinnati Public Schools juniors and seniors get their diplomas.
“Over the past eight years we’ve seen almost 2,000 kids come through our door,” said CEO Clara Martin. “This year we hope to exceed 1,000 and see all our kids graduate.”
Martin said the graduation rate from 2005 to 2009 was 90 percent and rose significantly to 95.45 percent in 2010.
The Cincinnati Arts and Technology Center is one of the programs funded by Better Together Cincinnati, a group put together after the 2001 unrest to pay for reforms the CAN Commission recommended to improve education, job opportunities and race relations.
It’s among the success stories listed in “Cincinnati In Black & White: Better Together Cincinnati – A Decade Later.”
The Better Together Cincinnati (BTC) report suggests progress is being made to close the disparity gap between races, but that considerable work remains.
Greater Cincinnati Foundation President/CEO Kathy Merchant said Better Together Cincinnati was created to invest in specific initiatives that are sturdy, stable and sustainable.
Merchant said the biggest lesson learned was that progress can only be made if everyone works collaboratively.
“We are better together as a group of funders who can pool our wisdom, pool our resources and invest in clusters of things that can change the way that systems work for the long haul – not individual programs working on one thing at a time,” she said.
Permanent legacies identified by Merchant include…
The past decade allowed the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to better understand the community, according to Merchant.
“It isn’t good for any of us if there are gaps and divides,” she said. “I think we’ve come to understand that there are a couple of really big levers for change like better police/community relations, like more companies and jobs and like people better prepared for their jobs through their education and their work force.”
Former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher is credited by Merchant with making sure that changes brought about by the Collaborative Agreement and Memorandum of Agreement were made permanent. That included CPOP (Community Problem Oriented Policing).
“I can only hope that our next police chief will also understand that police/community relations is to key to the health of our community and it actually workers,” she said.
Race relations, however, is still a work in progress, Merchant stated.
“I would wager there will always be tension of some sort,” she claimed. “That’s a fact of community life and the key is to have built the mechanisms for conversation, for trust-building, relationship-building that can last over long periods of time. I believe we have done that.”
Cincinnati’s future looks bright, at least in Merchant’s eyes.
One reason is that a system of tracking progress in disparity areas is permanently in place at the UC Institute for Policy Research.
Another is the work that millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours from hundreds of people have produced.
“Ten years from now I see more students graduating, more students prepared for career or college, more jobs and more success and more population growth for our region,” Merchant said.
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