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September 07, 2006


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I too attended the viewing of the 9/11 exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center last night. The 'lookback', after 5 years, at the horrors and losses of the day was a renewed and powerful reminder that there are those in world who would like to take away personal freedom as we know it -- that democracy and freedom need to be nurtured and protected and cannot be taken for granted. The exhibit also reinforced my enthusiasm for and pride in the infinite positive power of the American human spirit when unleashed -- of our ability to come together to face adversity and rise beyond it through mutual support and service. Beyond this, as I mull over Pete's comments and my experience last night I am brought to my current personal mission - a mission that is totally in line with the Freedom Center philosophy that Pete mentioned regarding the 'power of one voice' and everyday heroes. My mission is to bring a national service program called City Year to Cincinnati. City Year's motto is 'putting idealism to work'. It is a program that brings a diverse group of young people, aged 17 to 24, together for a year of full-time community service, leadership development and civic engagement. The young people work together to solve real problems in their communities, engage volunteers and amke a positive difference in other's lives. It is currently operating in 16 US cities and Johannesburg, South Africa. My son, Chandler, was a City Year core member with City Year Boston during the 04/05 school year, prior to going to college. My daughter, Chelsea, a Senior at Mariemont High School, is exploring doing the same during 07/08. The challenge for Cincinnati is that they must leave our city to do this. Roughly 18 months ago I went through the Freedom Center for the first time. Chandler was in Boston with City Year at the time. Moved by what I had seen and experienced, as I walked out of the Freedom Center I said to myself, "how can we have the Freedom Center here, and not have City Year?" Thus began my mission. It's time, Cincinnati.

I know of City Year through living in Boston, where it was founded, 15 years ago. Classmates from graduate school were involved in forming this organization and another friend, until recently, served on the board. City Year, an AmeriCorps service organization, is an incredible way for young people to do good and do well concurrently. Specifically, young people are able to spend a year with a diverse group of peers working on inner city projects...not feel good work, but real work that needs to be done and wouldn't get done otherwise. And by diverse, I don't mean from all parts of the country, although this is true. I mean young people of privelege working side-by-side with someone who's only chance of college is with the City Yearscholarship plus a whole lot more where that came from. Suburban kids and street kids. And the process, these young people learn independence plus a whole lot more about themselves and the world around them. Through their participation, they receive a small stipend for living expenses and a scholarship for college. And at the end of the year, they have a lot clearer idea of their priorities and, for most, gain a whole lot from (and contribute more to) their college experience.
In total, CityYear has 17 sites around the country and is currently establishing their first international site in South Africa. Columbus, Ohio has been a City Year city for a number of years. I agree with Nancy...the time is ripe for Cincinnati!

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