LETTER TO THE COMMUNITY
Since 1987, the women of the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter of The Links Incorporated have joined together as friends working to make a difference in our community. As one of three Northeast Ohio chapters of The Links, we have provided a broad array of services, all aimed at enriching the lives of residents and enhancing the quality of life of Greater Cleveland. The Links is a national organization with 14,000 members spanning 284 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. We annually contribute more than 500,000 documented hours of community service, which strengthens our communities and enhances our nation.
Annually, each of the 48 members of the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter commit a minimum of 48 hours to develop and execute community service programs. Our goal is to create sustainable programs with measurable outcomes that impact lives. Our service area spans Cuyahoga County, with a specific focus on the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland, exposing residents to educational and enrichment activities that support them in reaching their potential as scholars and as citizens.
Growing Leaders Transformational Program is an example of our work in the community. The mission and vision of Growing Leaders is to increase the number of African American young adults who successfully transition from high school to college and/or the workforce by focusing on the soft skills needed for sustained achievement. Success in post-secondary education and the workforce requires more than academic skills; soft skills such as communication/interviewing skills, professionalism/work ethic, critical thinking, financial literacy, healthy behaviors and entrepreneurial skills are critical to a student’s long-term success. The Growing Leaders curriculum includes educational modules on these topics as well as exposure to the Arts.
- Leveraging our strong partnership with the Cleveland Botanical Garden (CBG), Western Reserve (OH) Chapter committed to a two-year pilot with the CBG Green Corps to launch the Growing Leaders transformational program in October 2015. The first cohort (2015-2016 academic year) included eight young women ages 15-18 – five of whom graduated from high school and enrolled in institutions of higher learning.
- The second cohort (2016-2017 academic year) included three returning students plus five new students. In 2017, four students graduated from high school and enrolled in college.
- Every Growing Leader who successfully completes the program, graduates from high school and enrolls in an institution of higher learning receives a $1000 scholarship.
- The graduation ceremony for the Growing Leader Cohort II occurred during our Community Forum with our Link sisters, distinguished U.S. Representatives, The Honorable Joyce Beatty, 3rd Ohio Congressional District and The Honorable Marcia L. Fudge, 11th Ohio Congressional District.
- In June 2017, the Growing Leaders Transformational Program received a first prize award as the number one program in the Health and Human Services Facet at the Central Area Conference of The Links, Incorporated.
- After evaluating the two-year pilot, we expanded the Growing Leaders program, in September 2017, to include a total of 16 high school girls. The majority of the students in Growing Leaders Cohort III (2017-2018) attend Facing History New Tech High School (FHNT) — a Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s high performing, innovative high school that embraces social justice, diversity, technology and team work.
- Due to the generous support from our sponsors and members, we have invested $40,000 in the two-year pilot. We have budgeted approximately $25,000 for Growing Leaders Cohort III.
Another one of our transformational programs, the HIV/AIDS Awareness Umbrella Program, ensures that the communities we serve understand the incidence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community, how these infections are transmitted, and how the diseases can be prevented.
- In 2016, the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter partnered with Recovery Resources by donating $5,000 to augment their high-level marketing plan and launched a multi-faceted marketing campaign using billboards, palm cards, and social media to increase HIV awareness, encourage HIV testing and promote Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), especially among the targeted population.
- In 2016, as part of our Growing Leaders program, the Chapter hosted two HIV/AIDS awareness symposiums featuring noted experts to facilitate intergenerational dialogue – an initial step in demystifying HIV/AIDS in the African American community.
- In 2017, the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter was acknowledged by Safe on the Scene for our support. Safe on the Scene works in collaboration with Recovery Resources, Care Alliance Health Center, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio to encourage, empower and promote African American males to take control of their sexual health.
Be it education, health, or the arts, the Western Reserve (OH) Chapter is dedicated to improving the condition of our community. Our successes are based in our friendships, our dedication to community, and the support of the community through our many sponsors and partners.