by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, January 2014) Members of the Near West Side Community Council (NWSCC) have stepped up to the plate to get involved in working to assure that the effort to improve the academic performance of students in Near West Side investment schools proves to be a success.
NWSCC member Esperanza, led by Executive Director Victor Ruiz, will serve as the lead agency for three investment schools on the Near West Side of Cleveland: Lincoln West High School, Walton School and Luis Muñoz Marin School.
The West Side Community House (WSCH), led by Executive Director Dawn Kolograf, and also a NWSCC member, will serve as the lead agency for H. Barbara Booker School.
Juliana Cole, who as Community Network Weaver for the Stockyards, Clark-Fulton & Brooklyn Centre Community Development Office, helped to recruit members for the NWSCC, is now the education point person for United Way, working with all seveneen investment schools in the City of Cleveland.
Lisa Baskin and Judith Lozada, Cleveland Metropolitan School District staff from the Department of Family and Community Engagement, have also been involved in the NWSCC. They are now helping to organize meetings at the investment schools.
In addition some of the principals and staff members of the investment schools have attended meetings and developed relationships with community members and social service agencies as a result of the NWSCC. The NWSCC has been working for the past several years to bring together organizations and individuals in the community to focus their talents and resources to provide a supportive community for neighborhood youths. The organization has put in place the groundwork to help the investment schools achieve their goal of using a community wrap around strategy to bring social service and community resources to focus on addressing student needs.
Esperanza Executive Director Victor Ruiz says United Way has made a three-year commitment to the investment schools. Currently, using funds from United Way, the lead agencies are hiring site coordinators. The Site Coordinators will serve as point persons to work with school principals, school staff members, parents, students and community members in identifying school needs and helping to recruit organizations and individuals to help fill those needs. Ruiz says he has already hired a site coordinator for Walton School and expects to hire site coordinators for Lincoln West and Luis Muñoz Marin soon. West Side Community House Executive Director Dawn Kolograf says she hopes to hire a site coordinator for H. Barbara Booker School by mid January.
The three-year effort to create a supportive and coordinated community of resources and volunteers to effectively target needed resources to improve academic performance will now move forward. Ruiz hopes that with both Esperanza and West Side Community House continuing as members of the Near West Side Community Council they can help each other by comparing notes and best practices as the community wrap around strategy is implemented in Near West Side investment schools.