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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Why I Support the City Club: Lisa Ellis

Why I Support the City Club: Lisa Ellis

It's spring giving time at the City Club and we've asked our partners and members to share why they support us and our mission to create conversations of consequence to help democracy thrive. We'll be sharing their responses each week. We're inspired - and hope they inspire you, too.

Click here to give and we'll send you your own pocket-sized U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence!

I have been a high school counselor in Cleveland since 2010. During that time, I have worked alongside businesses, museums, non-profits, community organizations, and other institutions for the purpose of engaging students outside of the classroom. And over the past few years, The City Club of Cleveland has become an integral part of the MC2 STEM school year.

I don’t remember who spoke at the first forum I attended, but I was accompanying my students from Saint Martin de Porres High School. And I remember the feeling I had of being so grateful that there was yet another group of people in Cleveland, outside of our school buildings, who obviously understood the importance of bringing young people into conversations around local, state and national events, as they were happening. And not only was this institution sharing information with and soliciting thoughts from our young people, I soon learned that there were entire forums organized, administered and attended by groups of students from all over Northeast Ohio through their Youth Forum Council. So it was just very natural that I became the unofficial (and self-appointed) poster-child and field trip coordinator at our school for all future City Club events.

Although I am not the only educator from MC2 STEM High School who accompanies our students to City Club events, I was lucky enough to attend what I feel were probably some of the most inspiring forums of the past year. Karen Korematsu first captivated our students with the story of her father’s experience as a Japanese-American who spent time in an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then as a leading civil rights advocate. Ms. Korematsu conveyed her passion for continuing her father’s work in civil rights advocacy and encouraged the students in attendance that day to speak up and speak out and to know that not one person is too small to be the catalyst for big social change.

History books can only give us limited insight into our past, but to hear from individuals firsthand about our world and about that history penetrates much deeper and sticks with you much longer. And in an age when so much of the information that students receive comes from the internet and, oftentimes, not very reputable sources, allowing young people to interact and engage with leaders from all fields and walks of life keeps them connected to one another and boosts their investment to each other and to their local and global communities.

In February, along with Cameron Mays, a current Cleveland State University (CSU) student and MC2 STEM alum from the class of 2016, Senator Nina Turner delivered to us a powerful message of hope, perseverance, and civic duty in the face of change and the often divisive intricacies of politics. Prior to the beginning of the program, however, Senator Turner visited with guests and as she stopped by our table, was introduced to Cameron, who is a political science major at CSU and the Social Media and Communications Director for CSU’s student democratic organization. With aspirations of working his way up through local and state government to the national platform, Cameron was delighted to be meeting the senator. When Cameron jokingly asked her if he could be her running-mate in 2020, although he won’t technically be eligible yet, Senator Turner replied with, “Or maybe I’ll be yours!” To see that brief interaction between the two, and to know that the City Club facilitated it, made me immensely proud and grateful to be an educator in this city, who has the opportunity to witness our students connecting to the things that and people who inspire them.

Lastly, I’d like to share an email I received from one of our soon-to-be graduating seniors. The City Club of Cleveland hosted Senator Bernie Sanders on May 1st at the Global Center for Health Innovation downtown and invited our school to participate in the event. With seats in high demand, and notably with the many younger fans Senator Sanders has earned, I reached out to the student body and asked that anyone who was interested in attending please email me with a couple of sentences explaining why. Within three minutes of that request, I received this:

Hello Ms. Ellis,

Bernie Sanders had a message that always spoke to me. I was a huge fan of him even back in the days when he was receiving about 2 percent of the vote in the presidential election. I was ecstatic when I saw him gaining momentum, and I was heartbroken when he did not make it. Nevertheless, I want him to know that I still support him. I would like to see him speak to show him that, even when others want him silenced, I will support him. I hope that you will consider giving me one of the tickets, and if I do end up having a conflict with work, I can always request some time off. Thank you.

Benjamin Smith

These are the kinds of students we serve and this is the kind of impact the City Club has on them. But I guess what seems uniquely special to me about what the City Club does is that the men and women  involved in attracting students to these programs aren’t doing so to meet some sort of quota. They provide these opportunities and platforms for students because they care about what young people think, they know that by including them at the “adult table” that our collective future will be more secure.  At least that is the hope.  And from my vantage point, I’m pretty confident they’re right.

Lisa Ellis is a school counselor at MC2 STEM High School who frequently brings her students to City Club programs.

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