Restaurant Week aids Leadership Toledo’s work with youthWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
A few years ago, Carina Urban and Demetria Clark were struggling — running with the wrong crowds, getting into trouble, skipping school.
Earlier this month, the two South Toledo teens were among those honored for volunteer work by Students in Action, a program of the prestigious national Jefferson Awards for Public Service organization.
“It was the wrong crowd, wrong place, wrong time. That’s pretty much how I’d state it,” Urban said of her past. “But that’s the old me. Now I’m a different person. I don’t live in the past anymore. We’re moving forward, both of us. We’re good now.”
Urban coaches youth cheerleading through the South Toledo Area Recreation Society (STARS) League while Clark volunteers at Family House, a short-term shelter for homeless families. The pair also logged volunteer hours at local parades and festivals and recruited other students to help.
Both girls were students at Downtown Toledo’s Glass City Academy, where the awards were presented Jan. 10. The school, which provides a second chance to complete high school, enrolls students ages 16 to 22 in grades 11 and 12.
Both girls are hundreds of hours over the school’s graduation requirement of 25 hours of service, said school Director Stewart B. Jesse. Seventeen-year-old Urban, who recently graduated, logged 330 hours during the eight months she attended Glass City Academy while 18-year-old Clark, who will graduate in June, has served at least 180 hours since fall, Jesse said.
Urban will soon begin cosmetology classes while Clark plans to enroll in a medical program to become an X-Ray or ultrasound technician.
“Both these young ladies are perfect examples of what we want for Glass City Academy students,” Jesse said. “Young ladies or gentlemen who have maybe had something happen in their high school career and they chose to go a different direction, a more positive direction, and as you can see, this is the end result right here. Young ladies and young gentlemen who are very productive in our community. We’re very proud of these two for everything they’ve done.”
Toledo is one of about a dozen cities nationwide to host a Students in Action program, facilitated locally by nonprofit Leadership Toledo. It started three years ago in four area schools and is now in 24 schools, said Dave Schlaudecker, executive director of Leadership Toledo.
“This is an opportunity for youth who are doing great work to be recognized and patted on the back that they are community leaders and doing terrific things,” Schlaudecker said. “Part of the goal is to create leaders and help mentor leaders into being even better leaders and to move our community forward.”
Restaurant Week Toledo, an annual fundraiser organized by Leadership Toledo, will benefit the nonprofit’s youth programs, including Students in Action and Youth Leadership Toledo, a nine-month leadership training program for 50 sophomores from 34 regional high schools.
Eighteen area restaurants will feature a special menu priced at $10, $20 or $30 (drinks, taxes and gratuities are not included unless specified) during the week of Jan. 29 through Feb. 4 with a portion of proceeds donated to Leadership Toledo.
Participating restaurants include Bar 145, The Blarney Irish Pub, Bobby V’s American Grill, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s Restaurant and Bar, Dégagé Jazz Café, Fifi’s Reprise Restaurant and Lounge, The Hungry I, ICE Restaurant and Bar, LaScola Italian Grill, Manhattan’s, Plate 21, Poco Piatti, Rockwell’s, Rosie’s Italian Grille, Spicy Tuna Sushi Bar and Grill, Tea Tree Asian Bistro and Ventura’s Mexican Restaurant.
Schlaudecker said watching the awards ceremony at Glass City Academy ranks among his favorite recent examples of Leadership Toledo’s impact in the community.
“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been a part of,” Schlaudecker said. “These two girls, who had never had any recognition in their lives, got recognized and rewarded for their volunteering. They were unsung heroes. All the other students were there. That’s how we really believe people get motivated to go out and serve.”
Jesse said he already sees a difference in the attitude of other students toward service hours.
“It’s not every day somebody at your school gets this type of honor,” Jesse said. “They have seen that and they want to be a part of that. They also see the transformation of the young ladies. They see these two are doing wonderful things. They see how that affects them positively and they see it affects everyone around them positively. Our kids don’t even argue about volunteering anymore; they just want to do it. So I’m very happy that what these two have started will be able to continue.”
Urban said she coaches because she wants to offer a positive influence and help keep the girls from making the same mistakes she did.
“I do it to keep my girls out of trouble. That was my main thing,” Urban said. “I loved [receiving the award] because I think my girls can want to do what I’m doing in the future and maybe they could be acknowledged too and have a moment of fame too. I don’t know if any of them heard about it, but if they did they’re gonna be proud of me.”
Clark said she enjoyed the opportunity to show volunteering can be cool.
“I was happy I received the award so people at Glass City and people that see it on the news can see you don’t have to be a square or lame to do volunteer work. Be yourself. You don’t have to think what other people think,” Clark said. “Volunteering is important because it’s kids who are starting to get older and see what’s going on around them.”
Leadership Toledo’s third youth program, Youth in Philanthropy Encouraging Excellence (YIPEE), is funded by the Toledo Community Foundation. The nine-month program is for high school juniors and seniors who participated in Youth Leadership Toledo as sophomores. The students learn to raise money, which they then allocate to local nonprofits.
Leadership Toledo also operates a nine-month leadership training program for adults.