A $140,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation is enabling Miami University's College of Education, Health and Society (EHS) to develop and pilot a Cleveland Urban Cohort program that will create an immersive learning experience for Miami students and faculty in Cleveland's near West Side.
"Many people will benefit from a community-focused approach to education like the Cleveland Urban Cohort program—from the young people in the classrooms on the near West Side of Cleveland to the college students who are drawn to teaching in urban areas," said Helen Williams, program director for education at the Cleveland Foundation. "We applaud Miami University's efforts to provide culturally proficient teachers and other professionals to our community."
The Cleveland Urban Cohort will explore a holistic approach to meeting the needs of urban families. In addition to its focus on teacher preparation, the Cleveland program will involve students and faculty from other departments within EHS, including family studies, social work, educational leadership
"The Cleveland Foundation's partnership is very meaningful as we launch an Urban Cohort program that has tremendous potential to impact not only Miami students but also Cleveland's near West Side community, said Carine Feyten, EHS Dean. "We are excited to expand this inspiring program into another of Ohio's urban centers while involving more of our talented students and faculty."
Established in 1914, the Cleveland Foundation is the world's first community foundation and the nation's second largest. The foundation improves the lives of Greater Clevelanders by building community endowment, grantmaking and providing leadership on vital issues.
Learn how the contributions of Tom '59 and Sandy Sullivan have made the Cleveland Urban Cohort possible.
While Tom '59 and Sandy Sullivan are passionate advocates of education, both in their family and in their community, the idea of supporting Miami University had never really crossed their minds.
"As far as I was concerned, elementary and then high school education were more important," Tom said.
"We never really thought about a major gift to Miami." All that changed when the Sullivans saw the possibilities in two innovative programs with the ability to reach far beyond Miami's campus and impact young people in their own backyard. They recently made a $750,000 gift to establish the Thomas and Sandra Sullivan Cleveland Scholars and followed that support with an additional $140,000 commitment to help launch the Cleveland Urban Cohort program.
"As we learned about these programs and what Miami and the College of Education, Health and Society are all about, we became very intrigued," Tom said. "It's important and wonderful that we're able to connect our Sullivan Scholars program with our scholarship support of Miami University, and we're excited to partner with the Cleveland Foundation in bringing Miami's Urban Cohort program to Cleveland."
The foundation for the Sullivans' support was laid in 2002, when Tom retired as chairman and CEO of RPM International—a multi-billion dollar specialty coating and sealant business founded by Tom's father. In honor of Tom's retirement, a group including Tom and Sandy's children, the RPM board of directors and other top RPM officials contributed to launch the Sullivan Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarship support to children in Northeast Ohio, primarily for K-12 education.
"The idea was to take young people from near West Side schools, primarily Metro Catholic School and Urban Community School, and give them a scholarship to high school to continue their education," Tom said. Sullivan Gifts to Benefit Miami Students, Cleveland Community
"We hit 100 Sullivan Scholars this year, and these kids are doing remarkable things—75 percent are going onto college."
The Sullivan Cleveland Scholars endowment compliments Miami's Access Initiative program, which was launched in 2007 to provide free tuition to Ohio students whose families make less than $35,000 a year. It was created as a result of a more-than $10 million bequest from another Cleveland-area native, Lois Klawon '39, who, coincidentally, was close friends with Tom's mother.
The Sullivans' endowment will provide scholarships for six or more students who qualify under the Access Initiative guidelines, with preference given to graduating Sullivan Scholars and other prospective Clevelandarea students.
While the Sullivans have always prioritized scholarship support, they also recognized the potential of Miami's Urban Cohort program to reach a broader section of Cleveland's near West Side community. Based on the Urban Cohort, which has been successfully implemented in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, the Urban Cohort program prepares students to work in urban communities by involving them in the lives of those communities through immersion experiences, service with community agencies and longer-term residential experiences. In addition to its focus on teacher preparation, the Cleveland Urban Cohort will involve students and faculty from other departments, including family studies, social work, educational leadership and kinesiology and health.
"The idea of these young people wanting to live and serve within urban communities is wonderful. They're actually becoming part of the community, and not just driving back to the suburbs every night," Sandy said. "It's a great example of thinking outside of the box, and it would be wonderful to introduce it all over the U.S."
For the Sullivans, their support of education at all levels is an extension of what they have always believed at home. Each of their six children earned college degrees, and all have gone on to not only succeed in their careers but also to serve their communities. Sandy went back to college to complete her own degree at Baldwin-Wallace College once all the children were in school, setting an important example about the value of a college degree.
"Education is a primary focus for our family. All of our kids have their college degrees, and now we're moving onto our 16 grandchildren—one of whom is a senior in college right now," Sandy said. "We feel fortunate that we've been able to give back through so many wonderful associations. It is important to realize that no matter what your talents or resources, you can use them to make the world a better place."
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