Educating Tomorrow's Movers and Shakers
Four years after its founding, The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center is fulfilling its mission to educate a new generation of influential Clevelanders
How do you keep Cleveland talent in Cleveland?
It’s a problem that has vexed educational institutions throughout Northeast Ohio for decades. Many of the region’s best and brightest young minds have attended local colleges or universities only to graduate and seek better opportunities elsewhere.
In 2015, the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation gave Cuyahoga Community College the largest gift in its history with the goal of stemming that tide.
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Humanities Center, located at the Eastern Campus, would give students the opportunity to pursue an education rooted in the humanities and focused on leadership and community involvement.
“Tri-C was the ideal place to establish a humanities center,” said Mary Hovanec, faculty chair of the Mandel Scholars Academy. “Community college students are more likely to remain in Cleveland, so it makes sense to invest in those students as the future leaders of the area.”
Nearly four years later, the center is fulfilling its mission. More than 50 students have graduated from the program since the initial class walked across the stage in 2017. Those students are now on the verge of graduating with bachelor’s degrees from local universities such as Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve, Baldwin Wallace and John Carroll.
“This is exactly what we want to see,” said Matthew Jordan, dean of the Mandel Humanities Center. “We want to cultivate leadership skills in students who care about the future of Cleveland. We want to see class after class come here, go on to four-year schools, then come back to or remain in Cleveland to build their futures.”
Though the goal of the Mandel Humanities Center is to educate future local leaders, the lessons taught in the center range far beyond Greater Cleveland — sometimes by hundreds of miles.
This past February, 22 second-year Mandel Scholars traveled to Alabama to visit Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, retracing the steps of the civil rights marches that contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In May, students will travel to Washington, D.C., to get a firsthand look at the inner workings of the federal government.
“We want to give them well-rounded experiences that expose them to different things,” Hovanec said. “These are experiences our students might never have had before, and it gives them a different perspective. It’s a powerful thing for them — and a powerful thing for us, as educators, to watch.”
The out-of-state trips are the highlights of the semester, but the center also introduces students to many local organizations and events that increase their knowledge of the arts, public service and the humanities.
Mandel Scholars attend speaking events at the City Club of Cleveland and performances at Playhouse Square, and they collaborate with local organizations on community service projects.
First-year student Yeymi Cedeno Guerrero volunteers with the Spanish American Committee, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the quality of life for Hispanic residents in the Cleveland area.
“I’ve been helping a lot with people who are just coming to the U.S.,” Cedeno Guerrero said. “I’m originally from the Dominican Republic, so I’m aware of the needs of people who are just arriving in America. I love to be there and help those people.”
Cedeno Guerrero, 21, has been nominated for a 2019 Newman Civic Fellowship. She plans to graduate from Tri-C in 2020 and continue her education at a four-year school.
“The Mandel Center has been like a family for me,” she said. “I came to the U.S. at 19, not really knowing English, and I didn’t really understand how important it was to study until I was at Mandel. Now, it’s amazing how far I’ve come — and all the opportunities that have started to come my way.”
Her experience at the center has been part of a larger personal transformation that has taken place at Tri-C.
“Tri-C changed my life,” she said. “I was really lost coming to a new country, and I thought going to college would be impossible. I found out that it wasn’t. Enrolling at Tri-C is the first thing you should do if you’re coming to Cleveland from another country.”
Cedeno Guerrero is one of 124 success stories-in-progress at the Mandel Humanities Center. The goal, according to Jordan, is to have 200 students in the program at any point in time, with as many as 100 graduating from Tri-C each year.
Alumni leave ready to take their newfound understanding of the humanities to four-year schools and, ultimately, to become the region’s movers and shakers — citizens occupying influential positions in the businesses and governments of Northeast Ohio.
“We want to continue helping to build a foundation for community service and the development of leadership skills in service to Northeast Ohio,” Jordan said. “The center is still young, but thus far, we are making great progress toward accomplishing our mission.”
April 09, 2019
Erik Cassano, 216-987-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org