Daily News

MondayJune 29, 2015

Gang violence is topic of Upward Bound teen summit

More than 150 high school students from three Upward Bound programs in Greater Cincinnati will be spending three days on the Cincinnati State campus this week, in a leadership program built around a debate over the role of gangs in high school dropout rates.

President Owens and Ohio State Sen. Cecil Thomas got the program off to a powerful start this morning, using narratives from their own lives to drive home what was essentially the same message to the assembled teens: Your lives matter, you have opportunity, and it’s up to you to take advantage of it.

“There is greatness in this room,” Dr. Owens declared. The challenge, he said, was for the students to realize their potential.

He told the story of his own life, how, in ninth grade, when his family was on welfare and he was struggling academically because he was working, his counselor told him to forget about college and study shop instead. He told them he wanted to go to college, that he wanted to take algebra and the other courses that would prepare him. “They told me I was too poor and too stupid,” he recalled.

Not only did Dr. Owens refuse to major in shop, he went on to earn a medical degree from Yale and to post-graduate studies at Harvard, and to a career in medicine, education and public service that is now widely known.

Thomas – who was a 27-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department before serving on the Cincinnati Human Rights Commission and then winning election to Cincinnati City Council and then the Ohio Senate – told a similar story to the students.

His family moved to Cincinnati from Birmingham, Ala., when he was 8 years old, after his father had been threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. Thomas said he was drifted toward trouble as a teen, culminating in a gang fight in which he was stabbed in the head and arm. “In today’s culture that would have been a bullet in the head,” he noted.

On the way to the emergency room, he recalled, a police officer told him, “Son, if you keep this up you’re going to end up dead or in the penitentiary. You need to turn your life around.” When he saw the pain in his mother’s eyes later that day, he said, he decided to do exactly that.

It wasn’t easy at first, he said. He wound up getting a job as a janitor. One day, he said, his boss watched him mopping floors and praised his work, saying he was due for a promotion. “I thought, I don’t want to spend my life mopping floors.” Soon after, he heard a radio announcement for a police recruit class. He signed up, and changed his life.

As he talked, Thomas passed around a newspaper story from last week, featuring a photo of him standing by a young man who had just been shot near Findlay Market while a rally against violence was underway.  Thomas had been participating in the walk, and when he noticed the young man lying in the street had gone over to see if he could help.

The dying young man tried to talk, Thomas said, but couldn’t. He was drifting in and out of consciousness, bleeding badly from a bullet wound in his chest, as children and their mothers who had been at the nearby park watched in horror.

“So many young people get caught up in the decision to go to the left or the right,” Thomas told his young audience. “Right now is your start. You are the ones who can turn that around.”

Students participating in the Teen Summit are involved with the Cincinnati State Upward Bound program, the University of Cincinnati Upward Bound program and Project Grad. Over the next three days they will form competitive debate teams, and compete for prizes for the best overall performance.

The Teen Summit is sponsored this year, as it has in past years, by AT&T. Mark Romito, AT&T director of External Affairs, said the sponsorship is part of his company’s commitment to improving high school graduation and college attendance rates, and ultimately the quality of its own workforce. 

  • President Owens

  • Sen. Thomas

  • Mark Romito

  • Justine Clark-Lomax, Mark Romito, Cecil Thomas, Dr. Owens, Bari Ewing

I-75/Hopple construction update

Construction work on Interstate 75 at Hopple requires the following closures this week:

  • Intermittent closures of the city building’s drives for Bates Avenue pavement work. No vehicles are to be parked on the new parking lot or the Bates Avenue cul-de-sac today (Monday, June 29).
  • Lane closures on Marshall Avenue through the week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Right lane closure on Central Parkway through the week.
  • Various closures on side streets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Arrow boards and/or signs will be in place to alert motorists of the upcoming road and lane closures.

To help ensure the safety of the construction workers as well as the traveling public, motorists should remain alert, reduce their speed and watch for stopped traffic while passing through the work zone.