CLEVELAND — Many schools across the country developed their own form of living learning communities, but at Cleveland State University, officials said the donations that keep pouring in are what’s making the university stand out.
The money comes when the school is working to help the city’s most marginalized students have every reason to enter college, stay in college and come out with a degree. This is in addition to the university working to better address their retention rates of Black and brown students while providing wrap-around support for students in and outside of the classroom using a more relational, coaching approach.
“At CSU, we said how can we take advantage of the opportunities that are already in place and kind of leverage, lean in and make it better make it right, or make it tighter for these young people so that when they graduate, they graduate with minimal debt?” said Dr. Tachelle Banks, Presidential Faculty Fellow and Associate Provost of Academic Innovation.
That leverage led to CSU partnering with Say Yes and Cleveland Metropolitan Schools. As students are recruited from the district and receive the scholarship dollars from Say Yes, CSU then offers students who attend the university free room and board.
“We are changing the way the possibilities and the way that they view what they can do, how they can do by making sure they just have the opportunity, equitable access and opportunity," Banks said.
For students like Rah-Sheen Adams, he said “Without the scholarship, I was telling my mom, listen, I’m thinking about college from a financial standpoint. I'm not about to put myself in debt.”
So, receiving the help made it easier for him to commit to college. Without the extra pressure and need to focus on finances, Adams said he’s been able to focus on pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. Being a part of the Living Learning Community at CSU for Adams has not only changed the game financially, but helped him break out of his timid shell. What he once shied away from, he moves toward and has since become an influencer with a following. His hope now is to complete the school year and the rest of his degree on top.
The first cohort of students in the Living Learning Community is currently juniors. The first person will graduate in May with a degree in psychology. She's already been accepted into a CSU master's program. In the meantime, the university is looking to bring 60 more students into the program because of an additional $5 million donation from the George Gund Foundation. This is on top of donations and partnerships with Parker Hannifin Foundation and Samual H. and Maria Miller Foundation.