ABC Celebrates 20th Anniversary

This March, Activities Beyond the Classroom is thrilled to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Established in 2004 as the Student Activities Foundation, our humble beginnings centered on supporting high school athletic programs at Cincinnati Public Schools. 

Over the years, our reach has expanded significantly. Today, we proudly serve 15,000 students annually, offering 200 diverse enrichment activities. Notably, our commitment to arts-based enrichment activities has flourished. Join us as we reflect on ABC’s journey thus far and set our sights on a bright future, dedicated to empowering students in Cincinnati and beyond.

Impact Through the Years


The year was 2004, and for a variety of reasons, the landscape for extracurricular activities was bleak. In most suburban schools, the answer was simple: families formed booster clubs and raised money to offset the costs. However, for many urban families, money was limited and booster clubs weren’t an option. 

For this reason, a few committed individuals came together with the belief that no child should be without these life-shaping extracurricular experiences. Thanks to their efforts, and an extremely generous one-time anonymous donation, a districtwide booster club known as Student Activities Foundation (now Activities Beyond the Classroom) was born.

In ABC’s inaugural year, it supported athletic programming for 1,000 students at Cincinnati Public Schools.


ABC entered into an agreement with Cincinnati Public Schools to manage Stargel Stadium. Willard Stargel Stadium, named in honor of a distinguished Woodward alum, esteemed employee of Taft High School, and beloved figure in Cincinnati, remains a vibrant hub for high school athletics, accommodating teams from over seven CPS high schools.


Secured funding, including $200,000 from the Cincinnati Bengals and NFL Foundation, to help develop a new athletic field at Withrow High School. This versatile playing surface caters to a wide range of sports, and its impeccable condition has led to its selection as a venue for hosting OHSAA playoff games.


ABC and Cincinnati Public Schools enter into a contract to manage the high school and junior high Athletic Directors and their budgets. This means that Athletic Directors are officially added to the team at ABC.


ABC began creating and managing programs catered to students of even more age groups, extending beyond athletics for grades 7-12. This included launching arts enrichment, martial arts, youth tennis, 21 Century Learning Centers, and Community Connectors mentoring programs.


Changed the name of the organization from Student Activities Foundation to Activities Beyond the Classroom. This new name was conceived to more accurately reflect our expanded programming.


ABC secured an Impact 100 grant to turn an abandoned building into a thriving athletic facility for students at Hughes High School. This facility, known as The Mack, encompasses a complete basketball court, field turf, and a batting cage, providing student athletes with the opportunity to train for multiple sports throughout the year.


ABC launched our youth soccer program. While initially aimed at engaging young girls, this program now enrolls all genders. In the latest season, the program has expanded its availability to include over 500 students from more than 27 CPS schools.


Launched ABC Clubs at three elementary schools in Cincinnati. ABC Clubs are no-cost, high-quality afterschool programs that provide children equitable access to arts, cultural, athletic, and life skills programming.

ABC Clubs provide lower-income students with a safe place to go when the final bell rings. In addition, ABC Clubs provide students with nourishment through a healthy meal and snack as well.


ABC broadened its role as the Community Learning Center Lead Agency, facilitating enrichment activities for students at nine schools. This number has now increased to 13, with ABC collaborating closely with the Resource Coordinator at each school to deliver enriching activities for students.

ABC’s Resource Coordinators play a pivotal role in securing unique and life-changing opportunities for their students. They forge strong partnerships with individuals and organizations within their school communities, offering exceptional programs and experiences to the students they serve.

Notable achievements include Alpha Delta Boule’s formal adoption of Winton Hills Academy, facilitated by Resource Coordinator Shelby Zimmer’s dedication; a Color Fun Run at Ficke Park, organized largely by Resource Coordinator Cheri Jordan to raise funds for Silverton Elementary; and the consecutive recognition of ABC Resource Coordinators as “Resource Coordinator of the Year” by Adopt A Class, underscoring their exceptional work ethic and impact.


ABC teamed up with Dr. Isidore Rudnick and Cincinnati Public Schools to host the first ever CPS International Jazz Festival. On October 5, 2019, over 250 students who live in the Cincinnati area gathered at the Aronoff Center to participate in a free, full-day event packed with jazz-related activities.

During this all day event, the student-musicians performed for professional jazz musicians, and were able to get constructive feedback from the professionals to help them master their craft. In addition, the students were able to sit in more intimate master-classes, where the accomplished jazz musicians gave lessons, and shared their experiences in the world of jazz.  The evening featured performances on the main stage of the Aronoff from an ensemble of professional musicians from around the world, as well as larger student groups. 


Pivoted to coordinate deliveries of basic groceries and supplies to families struggling through COVID-19. Highlights from these efforts include partnering with the Cincinnati Bengals to provide educational kits to 350 student athletes and securing a $49,800 grant to provide shelf-stable food to families where ABC is the lead agency.


Launched Virtual ABC Clubs to pivot to remote learning. This gave students the opportunity to attend a variety of free and fun afterschool activities, such as the STEM Bicycle Club, Anime, Graffiti Art, American Sign Language, & more.

Partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools to launch the Summer Scholars Program. Summer Scholars was launched to provide additional educational and enrichment opportunities to students throughout the month of June at no cost to the students or their families.  While students spent their mornings focusing on academics and social/emotional learning, their afternoons were filled with enrichment activities, provided through partnerships with ABC and other nonprofits.

Secured funding, including $250,000 from the Cincinnati Bengals & NFL, to develop a new athletic field at South Avondale Elementary.

Brian Leshner steps down from Executive Director position. He is succeeded by Sally Grimes.


ABC took eleven student musicians to Barcelona for the Jazzing Festival de Sant Andreu. These students experienced a unique journey to Spain, immersing themselves in the regional culture while also honing their musical skills.

ABC End of Year Soccer Celebration hosted for the first time at TQL & Stargel Stadiums. This event allows for 340+ students from 27 CPS elementary schools in ABC’s elementary soccer program to engage in a full day of fun, soccer-related activities, at no cost.


Third International Jazz Festival expands to include visual arts gallery featuring international student artists. Thanks to the partnership of the Cincinnati Sister Cities, the International Jazz Festival featured pieces from student artists representing China, Japan, Ukraine, & Zimbabwe.

Looking Forward to Another 20 Years

Over its 20-year history, ABC has positively impacted approximately 200,000 students through its no-cost programs and services, saving families over a million dollars amid financial challenges. Initially serving 1,000 high school student athletes at its inception, ABC now annually supports over 15,000 students in grades K-12 across diverse enrichment activities spanning arts, athletics, wellness, foreign languages, and STEM education. These initiatives aim to keep children engaged and foster their future success throughout Cincinnati.

Looking ahead, we’re thrilled to extend our reach into arts-based programming for Cincinnati students. Our forthcoming initiative aims to deepen connections with regional and local arts organizations, enriching the array of opportunities accessible to students across the city.

We look forward to serving students in Cincinnati for another 20 years, and aim to expand to serve an even greater number of students with our cost free programming in the years to come.