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CISE graduates share their successes

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

ARCHDIOCESE — Since the Catholic Inner-City School Education Fund (CISE) was established in 1980 by the late Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, students have benefited from the knowledge, discipline and faith that are the cornerstones of Catholic education.

Steven Baines, a graduate of Corryville Catholic School, reads the intercessions during a recent Sunday Mass at Holy Name Parish in Mt. Auburn. (CT/Eileen Connelly, OSU)

CISE currently serves a diverse population of 1,400 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at eight urban Catholic schools, as well as 235 CISE alumni attending local Catholic high schools, most through scholarships funded by targeted donations from supporters of CISE.

The results from CISE schools are impressive; during the past three years alone, approximately 95 percent of CISE students at area high schools have graduated, and 88 percent have gone on to college or technical schools.

CISE graduates say the dedication of their teachers, a supportive environment that nurtured their gifts and the core values that accompany a Catholic education prepared them well to succeed academically and professionally.

On a recent Sunday morning at Holy Name Parish in Mt. Auburn, Steven Baines stood in front of the congregation to welcome them. Later in the Mass he read the intercessions and distributed Communion to his fellow parishioners.

A member of the parish since he was a child, Baines’ involvement at Holy Name is just one way he strives to give back. As a student at Corryville Catholic, he learned the importance of making a difference in the lives of others and has made a conscious effort to seek opportunities that enable him to do so.

An only child, Baines initially attended another neighborhood school but when it was rumored to close, his parents transferred him to Corryville Catholic in the third grade. Baines has fond memories of his time there saying, “What I really remember is how much the teachers cared about the students and their education. They, along with my parents gave me a good grounding in compassion and care for others.”

Both his parents and teachers also emphasized the importance of continuing his education. After graduating from Corryville Catholic in 1980, Baines went on to attend Roger Bacon High School and Xavier University, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication arts and marketing, and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vt., from which he holds a master’s degree in international and intercultural management.

From 1995-97 Baines served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia, where he worked with high-school aged youth teaching small business skills and English. “The goal was to provide technical assistance, learn about the people and tell them about the United States,” he explained.

Baines also spent three years, from 1999-2002, in Malawi, Africa, as a staff member of Catholic Relief Services. He initially worked to develop partnerships between CRS and the local dioceses and helped to build the model the organization now uses worldwide.

“I learned you can’t do anything without partnering with other people,” Baines said. “When you do it right, collaboration and partnerships can be very effective.”

A promotion led to his work as a program manager for CRS’ HIV/AIDS project, which supports individuals infected with and by these diseases. His experiences in Bolivia and Malawi were meaningful for Baines who said, “They gave me a new level of understanding of other cultures and new openness toward peoples’ differences. I realized people are still persecuted for their differences and that until you have lived among them, you can’t have a true understanding of their culture.”

Back at home Baines served as chairman of the City of Cincinnati Health Department and now volunteers as the diversity co-chairperson for the Human Rights Campaign in Greater Cincinnati and one of their national diversity trainers. Baines is currently employed as an education specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where he is the primary facilitator for new employee orientation. In addition he is a faculty coach at the Center for Progressive Leadership, a national institute that helps people by training them to become leaders in their communities and work for political and policy changes.

Baines has returned to Corryville Catholic on several occasions to address the students and share his experiences. One thing he stresses to them is what he learned as a student there — the importance of volunteering and giving back. He also reminds them to “appreciate the gifts you have, no matter how big or small,” and to give thanks for “friends and family, because none of us can make it on our own.”

Last, but certainly not least, Baines tells the students to “always have faith.”

Meshia Carter, a 1995 graduate of Corryville Catholic, describes her years there, from pre-school through the eighth grade, as “one of the best experiences of my life.”

Meshia Carter (Courtesy photo)

As members of Assumption Parish in nearby Walnut Hills, Carter said the decision for her and her younger brother, Jasmin, to attend Corryville Catholic was an easy one for her parents. “It’s where I spent my childhood,” she said of the school. “The teachers were very caring and concerned. They took an interest in my gifts and really helped me develop them. They nurtured my love for English, public speaking and writing. They also taught us about compassion and responsibility. That really prepared us for the future.”

Carter said she definitely felt well prepared upon leaving Corryville Catholic and heading to Roger Bacon High School, from which she graduated in 1999. She went on to graduate from the University of Cincinnati in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in addiction studies.

Over the years, Carter has held a number of volunteer and paid positions with organizations dedicated to helping single mothers, needy families and at-risk youth, including SUMA (Services United for Mothers and Adolescents), Women’s Connection in Price Hill and Hamilton County Children’s Services. Carter currently works as an educational outreach coordinator for Bohecker College in Cincinnati, a position that involves visiting area high schools to talk about continuing education.

Carter has also written and self-published a book titled Heiress Like Me, which is geared toward helping young girls “embrace all they are and all that they can become.” She was inspired to write the book, explained Carter, “because I grew up in a family that always told me I was destined for greatness. I’ve seen a lot of girls that don’t get that positive reinforcement at home. In doing research for the book, I did focus groups with young girls and asked them about the insecurities they have. I wrote the book to help give them confidence and make them feel beautiful. That’s something girls need. It was shocking for me that so many girls don’t have that, because it’s what I grew up with.”

It is the love and support of her parents and the values instilled at Corryville that Carter says made her the woman she is today and have inspired her to help others become they best they can be.

“I see my life as being very blessed,” she said. “At Corryville, they taught us to always be there to help the next person get to the next step in his or her life — the concept of paying it forward.”

Happily married to husband, Byron, Carter is also the proud mother of three  — sons Taj and Ty, ages 9 and 5, and daughter, Tailyn, 3. She said it is her mission to pass on to her children the lessons she learned at Corryville Catholic, especially the importance of helping others and always striving to do their best.

Dorian Durant, a 2005 graduate of Our Mother of Sorrows (OMS), said his experience prepared him well for high school at St. Xavier and college at the University of Cincinnati. He attended OMS, now closed, from the middle of kindergarten through 8th grade and describes it as a “very comfortable environment. The teachers were dedicated to helping you and made it fun to learn.”

Dorian Durant, a graduate of Our Mother of Sorrows, is now a student at the University of Cincinnati. (CT/Eileen Connelly, OSU)

“It was cool to learn at Our Mother of Sorrows, and the other students didn’t put you down because of it,” Durant added. “As we got into the seventh and eighth grades, the teachers really started treating us like we were young adults and talked a lot about responsibility.”

He recalls one teacher in particular who had a no-tolerance policy for late homework. “It was good preparation for high school and college,” Durant said. “She was strict, but in the end I was glad.”

Heeding the advice of his grandmother, Shirley Ewing, to do well in school because of the opportunities it provides, Durant studied hard, consistently making first or second honors, and earned a CISE scholarship to St. X, where he played football all four years and maintained a 3.0 GPA.

“It was excellent. I loved everything about St. X and made a lot of lifelong friends,” said Durant, who put in a lot of hours after school typing papers and preparing presentations on a school computer because he didn’t have one at home.

He graduated in 2009, and is now a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, where he is working toward a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a 3.4 GPA at the end of last term and has joined the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Durant said he loves to take things apart to see how they work, tinker with various gadgets and build things, and hopes to one day work as a designer or inventor. He also plans on pursuing a master’s degree.

His advice for the current crop of CISE students is this: “Stay focused and determined and you’ll achieve things. Don’t look at failure as a bad thing, but take it as a learning experience.”

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