Student and Community Voices
Depth of Relationships
Deirdre: "I had forged friendships and trust with my new neighbors. These relationships were formed easily while teaching. Seeing my students both in and after school allowed me to build close ties, while also allowing for an enhanced understanding of their daily struggles and challenges. I was the only teacher who did not scold Josh for sleeping through class, because I knew that his neighbors played music all night long. Without having to ask, I knew Rashon was absent because his mother was too proud to send him in dirty clothes."
Rachel: "Parents and students would see me walking around Over-the-Rhine, the same streets they walk, and call out to me, hug me, and talk to me about their child’s education and home life. This experience allowed me to connect to students and families in a way that many teachers never have the opportunity to do. Not only did this build relationships with my students and their parents, but it also helped me to improve my instruction in the classroom because I was more aware of students’ needs and they were more open to sharing and working with me."
Katie: "Before my experience in Over-the-Rhine, I may have been someone who served in a community for a week or a weekend, maybe even a few hours, giving my time to serve food at a shelter or clean up the neighborhood. But at the end of those trips, I would leave. I would abandon that world of unfamiliarity, uncomfortable feelings, and difference to return to my safe and comfortable lifestyle. Today, I see what was so wrong with that life I once lived...
Today, I see that for me, it is not enough to just give pieces of my life to a community for a short time, but that I want to invest my whole life into loving and serving in a community that is often neglected and forgotten.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that life isn’t about just giving because you are fortunate to have. But that life is about living in solidarity with one another, to learn from one another."
Rachel: "Living, studying, and working in Over-the-Rhine allowed me to develop a political understanding and passion for equality. I studied and became involved in the trials of the homeless and their fight for affordable housing and an adequate minimum wage.
I learned not to “sweat the small stuff” and now value relationships, self-reflection, activism.
This would not have been possible without the real-life experiences gained each day living in this urban environment. I was given the opportunity to learn, not only from the literature required in our courses, but from the people who are actually living the life and struggles that we were studying."
Taylor: "The urban cohort provided me with the support structure that helped me maintain the energy, dedication, and big ideas that it takes to be an exemplary educator in an urban school."
Tierionna: "This program dispels and confronts the myth of what it is to teach in an urban setting. It’s one thing to learn from a textbooks, its another to learn from the people you’ll be teaching."
"Joining the Urban Cohort is one of the best things that I have done at Miami. Through the Urban Cohort, I was able to grow as a person and a teacher. One of the first collective experiences when joining the Urban Cohort is a class called Empower. Through this class we are able to work to see the difference between "helping and serving" and the privileges and assumptions that each of us hold...
"Empower helps us to start to challenge our beliefs. I have also loved all of my interactions with the community of Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati. From participating in Cincinnati Summer Immersion Program (CSIP) to being able to live in Over-the-Rhine while student teaching there, I am amazed by how much I learn from community members, activists, and my students. From being able to live in the community I taught in, I could connect with my students both inside and outside of the classroom, helping to create positive relationships. The Urban Cohort constantly challenges me to think about different issues and perspectives with a critical eye transcending how I view the world."
"The Urban Cohort has not just helped me grow as a teacher, but also as a person. With a strong focus on social injustices, I have been able to become more aware of the society we live in. As a teacher, it is imperative that we understand the obstacles that students overcome on a daily basis...
"Issues such as poverty, race, income inequality, homelessness and culture, are all issues that affect many students in urban areas. The Urban Cohort has allowed me to further develop my own identity as a teacher through numerous community engagement opportunities, and help deepen my respect for the students that I come in contact with everyday. My experience with the Urban Cohort has been the fundamental foundation of my education, which will carry on with me throughout my future teaching endeavors."
"My experiences in the Urban Cohort have been completely life-changing. Through the Urban Cohort, I participated in Urban Leaders, a three-week residency and internship in Over-the-Rhine called Cincinnati Summer Immersion Program, and I lived and student taught in Over-the-Rhine...
"Through all of these experiences, I have learned a ton about poverty and its impact on children and families, and have developed a strong desire to see a community from the eyes of the community. As a graduating senior, I can confidently say that my heart and perspective have been forever changed by my experiences in the Urban Cohort! I can’t wait to have my own classroom, to seek out relationships with parents and community members, and to be an advocate for my students!"
"Throughout my time in the Urban Cohort, I have had numerous experiences that have solidified my passion for serving others. These experiences have also allowed me to find a new passion in social justice, as I have been educated on the issues that will affect my future as a teacher in an urban setting...
"The Urban Cohort has also given me the opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people who share my passions. At the same time, however, I have also been exposed to different perspectives, contributing to my own growth. The best thing about the Urban Cohort, in my opinion, is that we are so closely connected to Over-the-Rhine and Rothenberg Preparatory Academy. I love meeting and connecting with the residents of Over-the-Rhine and the students at Rothenberg and being able to learn and experience the history of the area."
"I'm a senior in the Urban Cohort and a current student teacher at Taft IT High School in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati. As a member of the Residency Program I live in the same neighborhood as my school, which gives me the unique opportunity to integrate myself on a deeper level with my students' community...
"In the last three semesters I have researched and written my honors thesis for my history major on the movement to desegregate Boston Public Schools, a topic I surely would not have pursued without the social justice framework and continued support of my Urban Cohort family. After Miami, I hope to continue teaching and living in an urban neighborhood and to one day attend graduate school for educational history."
"I choose Miami University because of the work of the Urban Cohort. I am very passionate about the education of all students, but especially those from urban areas. Many people only see the challenges that urban students face...
"It is true that there are many obstacles that my students will face, but because of my training I am receiving from the Urban Cohort, I see the benefits that my students and their families bring. I have learned that the first step in this progress is to see your own benefits and challenges. I have had to step out of my comfort zone and really learn and grow as a person and as a future teacher."
"Being a part of the Urban Cohort has afforded me many opportunities to further develop my passion for urban education and social justice! Once I participated in the Cincinnati Summer Immersion Program in May of 2012, my love for Over-the-Rhine grew...
"Fast-forward to the fall of 2013, I participated in the Over-the-Rhine Residency Program, where I lived and student taught in the community. Through the Residency Program, I learned how to put into practice the tools and information the previous years in the Urban Cohort provided me! During my student teaching at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, I participated in Children’s Creative Corner, a free local art class. Through my involvement in this program, I engaged with students and neighborhood residents. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in OTR is to always greet someone you pass on the street. In December of 2013, I graduated and began working at Rothenberg in January tutoring 3rd, 5th, and 6th grade students. I also have moved back into this beloved community! The community of OTR is truly amazing and beautiful—not only for the buildings or fancy remodel, but the beauty that comes from the people who live in OTR. I am forever grateful for the Urban Cohort and the experiences and knowledge I have gained!"
"I honestly don’t know if I would still be at Miami if it weren’t for the Urban Cohort. I knew I definitely wanted to teach in urban areas before coming to Miami but this program has reiterated that want in me even more...
"My passion for this work, this lifestyle, continues to grow every time we have a class, an event, or when I’m down in Cincinnati. Knowing that I am pursuing something I am so incredibly in love with is one of the most amazing feelings. This program has made such a larger impact on me than I ever expected or thought it could.
"I have learned so much about myself as an individual and about other human beings that may not come from the same backgrounds that I come from. I’ve learned that “I don’t know how to relate to my students” is not an excuse for anything. We can relate and connect with our students if we want to and are willing to. Empathy is huge. I’ve picked up a minor in Social Justice and Inequalities to further my knowledge in topics that relate to education. I spend my free time working with incarcerated youth once a week. I spend time in the community of Over-the-Rhine as much as I can and am so refreshed every time I’m there. These things most likely wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the Urban Cohort. I couldn’t be more thankful for this amazing, amazing program."
Rachel Von Holle
"As a senior at Miami University, I have had time to reflect on my experiences I have had, and the Urban Cohort is by far at the top of my list for best decisions I’ve made. Beginning freshmen year, the Urban Cohort has opened my eyes to how I perceive many important topics that are not discussed enough...
"From community service projects to student teaching in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati, I have gained so much knowledge that I would not have received sitting in a classroom. The Urban Cohort has given me real and raw experiences, and has encouraged me to spread awareness about social justice and the many inequalities our world faces. I have learned to truly see people—not only hear them, but listen to them and their stories. The best learning we can have is taking a leap into something unfamiliar. The Urban Cohort has given me four years of real world experiences, learning from urban communities and knowing the difference between working “with” someone rather than “for” them and for this I will be forever grateful."
Hear what Rothenberg Preparatory Academy officials and Over-the-Rhine community members say about the Urban Cohort.
Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, Cincinnati, Ohio
Rothenberg is an inner city K-8 Cincinnati Public school that went through
Alesia Smith, principal:
"If you know the community, then you know your students. So if you have students and student teachers who want to become teachers in the (urban) community, they actually get to feel what the kids feel, see what the kids see. They become immersed in the same lifestyle, so they’re better equipped to handle and teach the kids. Miami’s Urban Cohort Program would get an A from me...because of the respect they have for urban education."
Annette Digirolamo, 3rd-grade teacher:
"Urban teaching is a lot different than suburban teaching or rural teaching. There’s a big, big difference in training, or should be. By Miami recognizing that on the college level, maybe we can turn out teachers who are passionate (about urban teaching)."
Over-the-Rhine Community Members
Bonnie Neumeier, community member:
“In the 40 years I’ve lived in Over-the-Rhine (an inner-city Cincinnati neighborhood), I’ve seen a lot of our schools have teachers come and go and not really understand the culture of our neighborhood. I feel strongly that the community has a lot to share and that future teachers have a lot to learn from us.”
William Wallace, community member:
“It makes a world of difference to have that interaction (between future teachers and the community) because I think it builds relationships, and I think that’s what school is all about. It’s about learning, but it’s also about relationships, too. That’s the key to making things better for the students who go here.”
The Story of a Neighborhood
“I’ve been living in Over-the-Rhine, and there’s been a lot of the stereotypical stuff that people see on the news. That’s here, obviously. But there’s also the stuff that they don’t cover, like the love that’s here—and the desire to make something out of nothing..."
- Sierra Hughes '12, Urban Cohort student teacher
Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine writes:
"Over-the-Rhine is a predominantly low-income neighborhood, adjacent to the Cincinnati's central business district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has always been a home for poor migrants from Appalachia and the rural south looking for a better way of
"It suffers the classic problems of poor
"In 1950 approximately 30,000 people resided there, with whites constituting 99% of that population. Recent data show about 7,600, 80% black. Of the current residents, an overwhelming majority live below the official poverty level of $17,800 annually for a family of four. Of Over-the-Rhine’s 5,200 apartment units, too many are below housing code standards and nearly 500 buildings stand vacant.
"Dominant media perspectives of Over-the-Rhine characterize the neighborhood as an absence or as a lack. That is, outside of the new businesses, art galleries, and night entertainment spots that have converged mostly on Main Street, there is little else, only a territory marked by drugs, crime, prostitution, and chaos.
"Such perspectives never see that the community is organized. Prominent here is the Over-the-Rhine People’s Movement, a coalition of progressive groups based in organizations of social service, community education, the arts, landlord-tenant relations, welfare rights, and affordable housing development that marks a 30-plus year history.
"These organizations have provided needed services for residents in Over-the-Rhine for the past 30 years. Despite this record of traditional “community development” work, these organizations clash with the desire to “revitalize” Over-the-Rhine into a chic, gentrified neighborhood as an extension of the central business district. Very different visions of development meet and conflict in Over-the-Rhine."
Learn more about the community initiatives and partnerships at the Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine.