Miami faculty visit Avondale, Urban League, see partnership

Urban League social worker Melissa Hill (center) explains to Miami faculty how the League helped families displaced by a May fire at Somerset Manor, Avondale.

Urban League social worker Melissa Hill explains to Miami faculty how the League helped families displaced by a May fire at Somerset Manor, Avondale. Mark Curnutte/Urban League photo

Four Miami University faculty members visited Friday to pursue partnership possibilities with the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.

The faculty members spent four hours at the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, discussing with League officials potential points of entry for students and faculty as volunteers. The four faculty members also went on a walking tour of central Avondale with Melissa Hill, Community Access Coach, a social worker who engages with residents of buildings under the Choice Neighborhood Grant.

Miami faculty participating: Walt Vanderbush, Interim Director of Latin American, Latino/Latina and Caribbean Studies; Lee Harrington, Co-coordinator of Social Justice Studies Program; Tom Dutton, Director of the Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine; and Tammy Schwartz, Director of Urban Teaching Cohort.

The Miami scholars, who are interested in fitting Miami students into volunteer projects in the urban core, met with Donna Jones Baker, League President. They also heard presentations from three Urban League staff members: Patricia Bready, Vice President of Youth and Neighborhood Programs; Greg Walker, Head Trainer for SOAR (Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention); and Hill.

Adam Johnson, a current participant in the SOAR job-readiness program, spoke to the group about how the Urban League is helping him turn his life around. Johnson wore dress pants and dress shirt with a tie, clothing he received as a SOAR participant from the League’s Gentleman’s Clothing Closet.

Miami students of various major areas of study have lived in the Center for Community Engagement and worked in architecture, business and education. Through the center, education majors have been placed through the Urban Teaching Cohort in student-teaching positions in Cincinnati Public Schools.

Miami, which recently created its social justice major in the Department of Sociology, also is developing a community service component required for graduation.

Miami President David Hodge is supportive of the potential working relationship involving the University and League.

Bready laid out details of the After School League tutoring program at Woodward Career Technical High School. Walker talked about how SOAR and other League job-readiness and life skills programs could benefit from Miami volunteers to conduct mock interviews for program participants, provide mentors for program graduates and help trainers develop more classroom teaching skills.

On their 30-minute walk, Hill showed Miami faculty the Somerset Manor, an apartment building at Reading Road and Blair Avenue, damaged in a May fire. Residents burned-out of their apartments received additional support from the League.

Hill also took faculty into the Maple building, which will undergo renovation. Residents will move next door, into a building now under construction, during renovation. The Poinciana, at Reading and Hutchins Avenue, was the final stop.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the five-year, $29.5 million grant to developer The Community Builders in 2012 to transform low-income housing in Avondale. Community Builders then awarded a $1.2 million grant to the Greater Cincinnati Urban League to provide social services to residents of the five buildings.

Miami faculty said they would return to the Oxford campus to meet, digest information and potential points of entry, and present a plan to Urban League officials.

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.