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>> lehr: strengtheningthe community by strengthening lives, it'swhat the ymca of greater cincinnati black and latinoachievers program is all about. hello, i'm kathy lehrand on this edition of focus, we'll take a lookat the amazing success rate of the local programin nurturing teens to be all they can be. over the past 3 years 100%of high school seniors

in this free program havegraduated from high school and been acceptedinto an intuition of higher learning. how does the program work? well our guests todayto employer the y's black and latino achieversprogram: sandy walker, president and chiefexecutive officer with the ymca of greatercincinnati; mario rodriguez, program evaluation directorwith the achievers program;

and omari aarons, volunteerwith the achievers program from the macy's company. thank you all for beingwith us today. >> kathy, it's great to behere. >> sandy, tell us a littlebit about how the achievers program evolvedin cincinnati. >> sure. be glad to. the ymca throughoutits entire history, 160

years here in cincinnati,has been focused on youth development. and across the countrythe ymca was really committed to accessfor all. in the civil rights eraour founder of the ymca black achievers program wasquinton please and quinton was a leader in the ymcain houston. and he knew that youngpeople of color needed opportunities and to seea positive future.

and so the program beganthere and grew quickly to cincinnati. the cincinnati y beganthe program in 1979. and so we've been operatingfor over 35 years providing opportunities for highschool students especially, kids of color, to havea chance to meet with professionalsin the area and see that college isreally possible and get the support and guidanceand really build

their confidence to knowthat college and a career is possible for themand we want to have them be their very best. >> lehr: now it originatedas the black achievers, but then it became the blackand latino achievers. tell me a little bitabout that evolution. >> sure, the ymca realizethat the hispanic population is coming here. by 2020, whenever the second-- we're already the biggest

minority group and i thinkat some point that's going to change, we're goingto take over. so the ymca realizes thatwe have the same needs or similar needs samewith the black population. i'm going to give you a fewnumbers. 6 out of 10 studentsgraduate from high school, that's very similarwith hispanics. hispanics is a little bitlower, it's 5. only 5 out of 10 kids, blackkids go to college.

the hispanics is even lower,it is 3 out of 10 go to college. so the ymca has realizedthat and they get together and say that we need to dosomething about it. and in a very smart waythey start contacting leaders of the hispaniccommunity and then it becomes black and latinoachievers to serve all the black populations. >> lehr: how did i getinvolved with the program?

>> well, actually it isa funny story that i say that or ask that question. the program director, missdarlene murphy and i go to church together. and shortly after i jointthe church we were just talking one sundayand she was asking some questions aboutmy background and how i ended up herein cincinnati, coming from washington d.c.,and what i did for work

and that sort of thing. and she said, "you know,i have this program that i work with the y, the blackand latino achievers program and i think that would besomething that's right up your alley." so she invited me to comeout one saturday and just see what was going on. and i've been hooked eversince. so i've been withthe program now for going

on about three and a halfyears. and it's been a wonderfulexperience. >> lehr: when you talkabout coming out, this is a program, a group of youngpeople that meets saturdays throughout the school year. talk to us a little bitabout that. >> so i'll start but i knowthat omari is a great volunteer so he can speakto logistics and mario is one of our programdirectors, so you know

we work with the youngpeople throughout the school day and throughoutthe school year. but on saturdays twicea month at cincinnati state we have a partnership therewhere young people can be on a college campus and are visiting with ymca professionals andprofessionals from all different fields and careersthroughout greater cincinnati, men and women, who are accomplished asprofessionals themselves,

who help the young people beexposed to career clusters and to really support themin their application and finding financialassistance and making a selection for college. and so, it is on thosesaturdays when we really take a deep dive on careerexploration and college access. and mario and omari can tellyou more specifically what a saturday looks like.

>> yes, we will be happyto. first off we meet the firstand third saturday of every month. we begin on septemberand we finish in june. we go with the academicyear. in the summer we also takea break to prepare the curriculum and allthe activities for next year. as sandy said, the programworks all with volunteers.

we only have three peopleon the staff. we have an amazing poolof volunteers. every year we have closeto 30 volunteers from different corporationssuch as p&g, toyota, macy's, humana, johnson and johnson,luxotica, u.s. bank, and 5/3 bank. the program has threecomponents which are college readiness, we want to makesure that everyone has an opportunity to goto college; career

exploration, when you area teenager you don't really know what's out there. you might have an idea,you might say well i want to be a nurse, i want to bean engineer. but you don't really knowwhat that entails. so the volunteers like omarithey talk to them they tell them you know what they doin their daily life and the kids can learnabout different careers and leadership development.

>> lehr: volunteersat the root of this, sandy, i mean there's probablyno more important cog to plug in here than that. >> i can tell youwith absolute confidence, you know, the ymca iscommitted to youth development, healthy living,and social responsibility. and we've already talkedabout the young people, but the socialresponsibility, having men and women like omari whogive back to their community

and really help pavethe path of the future for young people is criticalto this program. this program is alivebecause of two things: because of excellentvolunteers that help guide the young people, giveof their time and guidance and wisdom, but also because of donations and resourcesthat the community provides to the ymca so that we cansupport hundreds of young people each year in blackand latino achievers.

>> lehr: talk to us a littlebit about why you stay involved with this program. >> you know, i think wheni was growing up i was fortunate as the storyalways tell is that i was not a y kid growing upin washington d.c. but i was fortunate to beable to participate in a number of leadershipdevelopment type programs and character developmenttype programs that really prepared me to stepinto college and then also

into my career. and so this was i think hasalways been part of my makeup. it has always been somethingthat i've wanted to do in terms of being ableto give back. and on the volunteer piece,you know, cincinnati is really home to a numberof corporations that really believe in being strongcorporate citizens, not just working here, but we livehere too.

this is our communityas well. and so the kids that arepart of the program are our future staff. they are our futureneighbors. they are our neighbors now. and so we want to doeverything that we possibly can do to investin the future. and that is, you know, veryfortunate that we have companies that reallybelieve in that and put

volunteers forward to helpout. >> lehr: one thing i'veheard from the volunteers is yes, they put a lot into it,but they get a lot back out of it; don't they? >> oh, that's definitelyinteresting. you know we all have a storyto tell and i think that's one of the best thingsabout the program and so we're really thereto share our story with the young peoplein the program

and to inspire them to goto college and just see the possibilitiesfor careers afterwards. but really them tellingtheir stories of what they want to do in lifekeeps us young, keeps us dreaming, keeps us thinkingabout what's possible, thinking about really whatwe want to do when we all grow up as well; right? (laughter) >> lehr: therewas an interesting statistic that we talkedabout at the beginning

of the program that over the past three years 100% of the studentsthat are in this program graduated from collegeand went onto an institution of higher learning. that's amazing. >> yeah, that's a lotof hard work that we put on that, the volunteersand us. if you come to the programwhen you're a freshman, sophomore, junior year,by your senior year we can,

if you work with usand you come to the meetings, we can pretty much guarantee that we will find a placefor you out there in a college, in a communitycollege, or some where in there. so that's why i meanultimately we need a lot of help from thevolunteers. we do since filling outan application, researching colleges, applyingfor scholarships, applying

for the fafsa which isthe federal aid from the government. all those things thatwe focus on saturdays so bit end you know the last dayof your senior year you have something for sure. you have, you know whereyou are going. >> and you know, kathy,the impact is longitudinal. we calculated thatover the years that the black and latinoachievers program has been

sponsored by the ymca herein cincinnati. we've had over 4500volunteers from a variety of different companiesand corporations working with young people here. and we've been able to award$200,000 of local book scholarships and get startedmoney for kids to launch their college career, but we've helped them access over 4 million dollarsin financial assistance and scholarshipsfrom colleges and

universities through allthe years that the y has been involved. so you know we really arecommitted to helping young people get the supportthey need and create opportunities from reallycradle to career. and so we work with earlychildhood at the ymca of greater cincinnati,we have rich after school summer learning programs,and then we walk into this age group of high school and it's really

about leadershipdevelopment, making really positive choices,and getting the support that young people need to launchtheir lives into adulthood. so we're very proudof this. with the partnershipof volunteers, staff and donors there's lotsof possibilities for young people. and young people of colorhave a bit bigger mountain to climb, but we know we canreach the top together

helping them and watch themlaunch into a victorious adulthood. >> lehr: mario, you've gotto have a lot of great stories of young people whohave come into the program and maybe were strugglinga bit and have just taken off. >> yes, we do. actually last year i wasvery pleased. this will be my fourth yearwith the ymca.

so the first year thati came to -- i received, that was the first year thatit was black and latino achievers. and so we started recruitinga lot from latino students. and we had three amazingguys that came into their freshman year,two of them, they were from columbia. daniel rivera and sanchez. and one from peru which ismaria.

these guys took advantageof every single opportunity that we had. they were there everysaturday. they went to the teen summitin kansas, that was the first time that i hadto experience that opportunity. we went probably twoor three times to the college tour wherewe travel around the country during the spring break,we see several universities

and i mean they were thereall the time. their senior year cameand because of the partnership that we havewith some universities, the three of them were ableto find a full ride. maria went to nku for fouryears for full ride with room and board. sanchez went to moore headstate with full ride too. and daniel rivera is nowa student at cincinnati state also with a fullride.

he is doing physicaltherapy. and so their parents,their family were so grateful because we leadthem. they come from a differentcountry. it is just differentin latin america how the collection applications,how you pay for college. they don't know that. so they are always lookingfor help. and the ymca was a help thatwe lead them and they were

able to becauseof their effort, their grades, andtheir commitment to their studies they wereable to find a scholarship. so that's our biggest hitat least in the last four years. >> lehr: now this is a freeprogram? >> it is completely free. >> lehr: so how do youngpeople get involved? >> well, they have to --they just have to come.

that's pretty muchon saturdays, first and third saturdaysthey just have to show up and we will take themfrom there. that's the main -- >> lehr:talk to us a little bit about the responsibilitiesof volunteers with this program. >> oh, you know i thinkthe volunteers really just -- we really try to bereally creative in our approach.

and so one of the thingsthat we know about the millennial generationand younger is that technology is everywhere. they really enjoy veryinteractive sessions and so we're constantlythinking through new ways to be able to present someof these same core concepts. so job interviewing skills,how you sit down, how you dress and presentyourself when you're

applying for a job or whenyou're going for college. and how you fill outa college application or putting togethera resume. and even now how you puttogether your linked in profile and what thatsays about you, your presence on socialmedia. so we're exploring thesetopics that are really just topics that all of societyis exploring and we really do our best to have funwith it.

so we like putting outchallenge assignments for the students where we'llcome up with different scenarios. we'll introduce a topic,we'll have a general discussion about why gpa isimportant or what your social media profilesays about you, what people can read from that. and then we provide someexamples and we really let the kids go from there.

and they have greatdebates. they make wonderful points. this past saturdaywe actually just had a discussion onthe importance of grade point average and what thatreally says about you. and we gave the studentsthree profiles of students with different gpasand different leadership abilities and communityservice. and we just sat backand they really just took

control. and watching them debateeach other and make points and be respectful of eachother and make these very strong arguments. you know at the end of iti think all of us wanted to hire all threeof the people because they had done such a greatjob of presenting them. >> lehr: what isthe responsibility of the parent in thisprogram?

>> well the parent has to beinvolved. they have to -- normallythey bring their kids. they have to be in contactwith the director because it is always -- we're alwaysgiving the schedule of activities,the activities that we're going to follow. so parents need to workclose with us so the kids have to -- they can bethere, they can make the meetings.

sometimes we go to otherplaces and they have to be taking care of the kidsand working with the y. we also have parents thatvolunteer, they come on saturdays and we havefree lunch so they actually -- they are the ones whotake care of serving the kids, cleaningthe place, they are very involved with us too. >> lehr: how is the programpaid for? it's a free program, teenscan come.

you have a lotof volunteers. the y sponsors it. but how do you fund, to getit to continue to grow? >> well there's two mainways that we fund this one is through a veryimportant special event, the achievers galla that'scoming up right here this coming friday evening. we honor men and womenfrom companies because they are excellentprofessionals and

the companies sponsor them. and in turn for thatrecognition they make a commitment to give backas volunteers. but the companies alsounderwrite their participation. so that's really importantto the program. and secondly we do an annualsupport campaign and so we do get donationsfrom a variety of community leaders and from foundationsand corporations,

really important to supportthe college path because this is a year longprogram. you know, we walk with youngpeople on college goals sunday and know how to goevents and really be a resource to kids. i think the other thingwe haven't talked about yet is that some of the parentsthat we work with give back and are mentors to otherparents along with being there for the kids.

some parents have beenthrough a college experience but many have not. so we're talking about firstgeneration young people and so i think this programexists for the good heart and smart minds of a lotof great volunteers. and with the generousresources of some of the companiesand corporations in cincinnati and manycommunity donors. >> lehr: mario, what areyou expecting when it comes

to growth of the program? >> i think we definitelyhave been growing. things have been prettysteady. >> lehr: when you lookat that success rate, a hundred percent of kidsgetting into higher education, that is -- that'sincredible alone. >> yeah, we have todayregister on paper we have close to 81 students. ultimately our goal is to gofor the big hundred.

every meeting we havean average of close to 75, between 68 and 75 kids whocome every saturday. so i think our goal,or short term goal in the next couple of yearsis to make it a hundred kids, serve a hundred kidsevery saturday. we have 25 to 30 volunteerswe would like to increase that to probably 35 to 42. so we're workingin cincinnati state and we have a bigauditorium.

so we still have the spacefor it. >> lehr: who makes a goodvolunteer? >> you know people who havea really good heart. and you know what'sinteresting when you think about giving back and doingsome mentoring you think, well, gosh, is my lifereally all that together? is my career everything thati want it to be in order for me to go and advise somepeople? but really someof the missteps that we've

made along the way are someof those good experiences to talk about as well, things that we didn't know going into college, thingsthat we didn't know about going into the workforce that we had to kind of learn, trial and error. and those are theexperiences that are good to come and share as well,the obstacles that you've come over. so people that are willingto be transparent

and willing to be vulnerableand be able to really put themselves out thereand really be able to share their story in a way that'sgoing to inspire the young people in the program. and then also it becomesa community of transparency among the volunteers. we learn a lot about eachother and we're also able to leverage each other'sexperiences when we're doing the career explorationand when we're talking

about applying to collegeor doing interview sessions. so we're able to leveragepast experiences that we learned from all of uscoming and really sharing who we are, what we've beenthrough, where we're looking to goand partner them up -- partner volunteerswith the young people in the program as well. so you don't have to besomeone who has a perfect

life or a perfect careerpath. >> yeah, definitely. most of the volunteers thatcome and they share their experience, you knowhow they get there. and that's what he said,sometimes it is like telling yourself like how wouldyou get there again if you had the chance? i mean you are pretty muchspeaking to a mirror because you are seeingyourself you know ten years

younger. so obviously we wantfor them to be better than us. so you tell them the do'sand the don't's and i think that's what's partof the magic of the program. >> lehr: do you often seeyoung people have gone through this program endupcoming back to be volunteers and mentorsto the younger people?

yes. it happens actually very,very often. even sometimes students whogo to different colleges outside of the statewhenever they have an opportunity they comeand visit. so i think, yeah, they keepcoming back. >> lehr: sandy, what doyou see for the growth of this program? >> well, you know, i thinkthat there is if only all

the kids had everythingthey needed to be strong and successful. so really the growth isunlimited. it really is. the ymca is really committedpartnering with schools and so i think there isopportunity to think more deeply about schoolpartnerships, both within the cincinnatisystem but also in northern kentucky and in other partsof greater cincinnati.

i think that there'sa possibility of looking at satellite locationsto make it more convenient for students. you know these arethe dreams that we have. we aspire to create as manyopportunities as we can for young peopleand to support parents. parents want the very bestfor their kids and we want to be partners, volunteersand staff helping kids find the opportunities and reallyget ready for that next step

into adulthood. >> lehr: well,the importance of businesses getting involved in thistype of project? >> absolutely. and when you talkabout you know the potential for growth in this programdifferent ways companies can come and be innovative and really be able to aid in the education processand really get involved and be able to showcasedifferent careers.

toyota through this programhas a wonderful mentoring program that they do on-sitewith some of the students that are part ofthe achievers program where they actually bringthem onto the toyota campus and they assign them oneon one mentors. and we would love to havemore companies that would step up to the table and dothose sort of things. so it is one thing and it isdefiniately wonderful to give money and then alsoto give resources,

but companies really havean ability to do so much more in terms of taking reallife work experiences and give them to this groupof young people that are the future consumers, thatare your future core customer, and really be ableto understand where their mind sets are goingand where they think. so there's a win-win thereof being able to advance the company forwardand allow them to be forward thinking as wellas providing a young person

with an experience thatthey'll never forget. and that potentially couldbe something that would set them on a career path thatthey may not have thought about before. >> lehr: mario, haveyou heard back from any of the recent achieversas to how they're doing with their new lifein college? >> yes, we keep in touchwith them in an informal way.

so sometimes we call themon the phone, sometimes they send us e-mail. and we just hear from him. his name is robert comeinsurance, he was one of the black and latinoachievers last year. we travel a lot as i toldyou during the spring break. we visited close to 11colleges. so two years ago we wentdown south.

we went to atlanta, to moorehead state. and i remember that he wason the trip and he just fell in love with moore headstate. that's when he said likethis is where i'm going. it's going to be here. >> >> lehr: beautifulcampus. >> and he made it there. he's a freshman there. he sent us an e-mail thisweek on monday and he said

that he's doing great. he's a mechanical engineer-- well he's a double major now also doing somecommunications. he's very involvedin the step team. he's also taking in i thinkthe spanish club or something like thatso he's very -- he has very good grades, that's the mainreason just to let us know that everything was fine,he has two a and one b in the mid terms.

so that's amazing to hearabout. >> lehr: that's prettygood. >> this is very -- it's verysatisfactory to hear from these students. >> lehr: it's a freeprogram. sandy, talk to us about whya child out there, why a company out there, whya volunteer out there should get involved. >> you know a child shouldget involved because

you just hear thingsin a different way, your parents andyour relatives can tell you one thing, the teachersin your school thing can tell you one thing. but i think when you sitwith volunteers who are company leadersand professionals you can ask them questions thatyou might not have a chance to ask. you can find out howthey became designers

of cars or excellentconsumer product managers at a great company likemacy's. or you know find allthe what exactly it takes to get to different careersand what academic experience you need and what kindof things do you need to enjoy in order to be goodat that. so that's a reason for youngpeople to join. i guess that's the samereason for a company or corporation to beinvolved, to raise the next

generation of employees,to give your employees a chance to be involvedin the community, because when it comes rightdown to it that's what the y's about: strengtheningthe foundations of community and adults finding a wayto give back in meaningful ways, companies and corporations knowing they're makinga difference not only through their profitventures but also through serving youngpeople.

so i think it's goodfor the entire community, kathy. >> lehr: sandy, mario,and omari thank you so much for being with us today. i greatly appreciate it. >> thank you, kathy. thanks guys. >> lehr: for moreinformation about the black and latino achievers programat the ymca of greater

cincinnati, visitthe website you may also call themat 362-ymca. to watch this and otherfocus episodes again on demand you can doso at our website: thank you for watching, i'mkathy lehr and we'll see you next time right hereon focus. >> tell us what you think>> tell us what you think about the programs we airor let us know if you would

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