Posts in Education
Toilynn O’Neal: The Magic of Art, Science, Education, and Community

Toilynn O’Neal is fully invested in the city of Cincinnati. She’s worked at St. Ursula Academy in Walnut Hills for the past 20 years and currently serves as their director of diversity. She works for the Cincinnati Visitors Bureau, helping to develop multicultural entertainment for Fountain Square in the summer. She’s the interim executive director of the Queen City Foundation, an organization devoted to helping young people succeed. Toilynn herself benefited from QCF, and she says it’s one of the reasons she is who she is today, doing what she’s doing to elevate young women in Cincinnati and inspire them to become leaders and community change agents.

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KellyAnn Nelson: Music Is a Superpower

KellyAnn Nelson believes in empowering people and helping them to access their superpowers through music. She is the founder and artistic director of Young Professionals’ Choral Collective of Cincinnati (YPCC), an open access nonprofit choir. YPCC has a roster of 1,100 young professionals (YPs) who sign up to sing in any or all of the organization’s three arms: 1. Non-auditioned cycles which run 6-8 weeks each; 2. Community singing, which takes place around town upon request, whether at breweries or on the steps of Music Hall; and 3. The auditioned chamber choir. KellyAnn is also the managing artistic director of the Cincinnati Boychoir. Through these dual roles, she is helping to create a community of inclusion in Cincinnati.

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Easterseals’ Debbie Smith: ‘Don’t tell me no; tell me how.’

Debbie Smith’s motto is: “Don’t tell me no; tell me how.” This bold attitude has brought her to develop innovative programs that elevate Cincinnati youth out of poverty. We met her at Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati in Walnut Hills and sat down in a conference room, where she shared her story with us. She weaved advice into her stories, thoroughly demonstrating her desire to help others in any way possible.

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Scenes from the City: Homeadow Song Farm’s Vicki Mansoor

As soon as I pull up to Homeadow Song Farm, I know the homestead is no stranger to me; the energy is too welcoming and sweet. I step out of my pollen-covered Corolla, trip on a rock, look around with my mouth agape, and see Vicki Mansoor looking at me as she walks down the stairs.

Vicki is the natural beauty of the land, disguised as a human being. I feel unnatural with a camera hanging from my neck: There is just no way to capture that kind of beauty. Not even words can, but I will try to explain.

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Raised By Women, Chapter 1: Dr. Sandra Combs

I’m overjoyed to see Dr. Sandra Combs walk through the door of Roebling Point Books & Coffee on a rainy Sunday morning in February. I’m good friends with her whole vivacious family, and while she stands in line for a large coffee, we gush about her daughter Emily, who just found out she’ll be having a baby girl this June. We make our way to the comfy armchairs in the next room, and as she begins to tell me about her journey – sharing her gift as a speech pathologist, finding a home in Covington, and more – her bracelets jingle like a soundtrack to her words.

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F*** It. I’ll Do It: Interrupting the Narrative

Many times as an after school coordinator, “F*** it. I’ll do it” meant interrupting the usual narrative. When I had a group of third grade girls who prided themselves on being mean girls, it meant bringing them together in a sister circle; showing them the beauty and worth in themselves and one another; and teaching them how to build and sustain friendships with one another that could last lifetimes.

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Christa Hyson: ‘Keeping my sunshine.’

Christa Hyson had worked in public health for years, navigating government, health statistics, and community needs. But when she moved back to Cincinnati, she was struck by the devastation that the opioid epidemic was causing on her hometown. She started researching prevention programs and discovered a curriculum called HOPE (Health and Opioid Abuse Prevention Education).  

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Portraits of Mentorship: Mandy Shoemaker & Alesha Hamilton on Giving Life a Shot

With only one semester of her undergraduate education to go before heading to law school, Alesha has been lucky to find not only role models, but also important friendships among advisors and other students. Mandy, her University of Cincinnati Honors Program advisor, finds inspiration among Alesha and other students who push themselves outside of their comfort zones. The two have grown together over the past few years and helped each other in ways they wouldn’t have imagined, expanding the typical roles of the mentor-mentee relationship.

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Portraits of Mentorship: Dr. Jane Sojka & Hannah Fereshtehkhou on Confidence in Selling Yourself

After a long Tuesday proctoring a final marketing exam for the semester, Dr. Sojka and Hannah met with me in Dr. Sojka’s office. Their motto is that “everybody sells something,” especially themselves and it is important to build the confidence to do so. Despite the quiet halls of the Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati, they remained lively in their conversations – although that could have been the sugar from the cookies Dr. Sojka offered us.

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Portraits of Mentorship: Dr. Karen Bankston & Sara Burke on Nurses' Impact

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Dr. Karen Bankston and Sara Burke of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing squeezed me into their busy schedules. The enthusiasm they carried about their impressive careers and hope for the future was felt throughout the room. “It’s not your mother’s nursing school,” Dr. Bankston says as she reflects on the differences of nursing education through the years. While some aspects have stayed the same, both of these women find their passion in driving change beyond hospital walls.

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Portraits of Mentorship

Many of us are lucky enough to name 10 to 15 role models that have shaped who we are today. Our educational years mold us greatly in our future professions. Those in the beginning stages of their careers need attention and interest from those around to help them in shaping their goals and reaching their full potential. Through this series, I was able to focus on students pursuing different goals, personally and professionally, to discover what makes the role of mentorship in their lives so special.

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