All posts by Carmen Lawrence-Billé

International Jazz Returns to Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Public School (CPS) International Jazz Festival, hosted by Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC), will return to Cincinnati on May 6, 2023, at the Aronoff Center for the Performing Arts. Acclaimed jazz artist and educator Joan Chamorro will again take the main stage at this event, but this time he will be accompanied by not only Cincinnati students, but also eight of his Barcelona-based Sant Andreu Jazz Band students.

The students will be rejoining their peers from Cincinnati, after eleven of our own Cincinnati Jazz Academy students attended the Barcelona-based Jazzing Festival in September. There, international students performed and jammed together in similar master classes and workshops. The trip, sponsored by both ABC and the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, was a first for most students out of the country; for many, it was also their first time leaving Cincinnati. “We could not have done this without ABC,” Dr. Isidore Rudnick, Fine Arts Curriculum Manager at CPS commented. “ABC makes things happen.”

At this year’s Jazz Festival, students from Barcelona and across Cincinnati alike will partake in workshops, jam sessions, and an evening performance with Joan Chamorro and other local and regional jazz musicians. All workshops will begin at 2:00 p.m. and will be completely free and open to the public, and will not require advance registration. The evening performance will start at 7:00 p.m. and will also be completely free and open to the public to attend. ABC will also partner with the International Sister Cities Association to bring a new visual art installation to the lobby of the Aronoff before the show. The installation will include pieces of art by children all over the world inspired by friendship.

The festival will be a celebration of both the Jazz Academy’s achievements and of the wide variety of arts programming brought to Cincinnati students by ABC. Reaching over 15,000 students every year, ABCs free programs include music, 2D and 3D visual art, dance, drama, and more. “It’s amazing what these students can do, when they are given the opportunities to explore artistic expression,” shared Sally Grimes, Executive Director at ABC.

ABC Welcomes New Members to the Board

Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) added two new members to their Board of Directors, expanding its reach into the Cincinnati arts and athletics communities. The new board members include Sydney Fine, Senior Director of Impact at ArtWorks, and Alexandra Simons, Director of Community Engagement at the Cincinnati Bengals. Both are long-time allies and friends of ABC who regularly collaborate on efforts to increase access to extracurricular activities for Cincinnati-area students.

As part of ABC’s strategic planning process, the organization conducted an analysis of the board. “We have an exceptional board, and we are always attentive to bringing new perspectives to the table representing all the programs we have across ABC,” shared Dick Friedman, President of ABC’s Board. “Sydney [Fine] will bring a wealth of knowledge about the Cincinnati arts scene, just as Alex [Simons] will on Cincinnati athletics. As we grow our arts programs and broaden our athletics initiatives, their perspectives will be critical.”

Sydney Fine

Senior Director of Impact, ArtWorks Cincinnati

Sydney Fine spent the beginnings of her career as a camp counselor and teacher with Teach for America before she pivoted to the youth development non-profit sector. Beyond education, her background includes fundraising and creating workforce development programming for teens and young adults. “Ensuring that youth have access to extra-curricular enrichment opportunities has been my number one passion for the past decade,” Fine shared. “I’m thrilled to be a part of an organization that does this so effectively and is committed to expanding access to the arts.”

Sydney serves at ArtWorks as Senior Director of Impact, where she leads the strategic direction, management, and evaluation of ArtWorks’ you and artist programs, public art outcomes, and community engagement initiatives. She also serves as a board member of ish, an organization exploring Jewish cultural traditions through the arts.

Alexandra Simons

Director of Community Engagement, Cincinnati Bengals

The 2022 NFL season marks Alex Simon’s 13th season with the Bengals. She spent her first five seasons responsible for Paycor Stadium’s 150+ private events. In 2015 she moved to the corporate partnerships team where her understanding of the business side of sports started to take shape. In 2018 she began leading the Bengals Community Engagement efforts.

Prior to joining the Bengals, Alex spent four years in marketing and communications. Alex is an integral supporter of ABC, helping with major projects including the AAA Pathway and the rebuilding of the South Avondale Elementary field. “The positive impact sports have on young people is invaluable and I am excited for the opportunity to help ABC continue its mission of ensuring young people have access to sports and extracurriculars that will equip them with key life skills that are the building blocks to success on and off the field,” Alex said.

Aiken High School Band Wins Downriver Showdown

We’re reminiscing back to warmer weather, and wanted to remind everyone of the triumphant success of Aiken High School at The Downriver Showdown in Ecorse, Michigan back in May, 2022! Over 7 high school marching bands from across the Midwest competed in Ecorse for bragging rights: which marching band would walk away number one?

Marching band isn’t for the feint of heart. It’s an incredibly physically trying art form that requires a fair amount of stamina and endurance- and it’s even more physically taxing if you participate in color guard or dance teams. Marching bands are a beautiful part of our United States cultural experience. This competition was for much more than bragging rights; it was a celebration of all things Americana and artistic.

The overnight band trip was an even greater opportunity for our students because it was a new adventure. “This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of our students, as most of them have not left the city of Cincinnati. Our students in the band thrive on competition and have a hunger to be the best. This opportunity inspired them to practice harder than they ever have. It taught them to hold themselves and each other accountable for their actions in and out of the band classroom,” shared Aiken Band Director, Steve Barton, Ed.D. “As we were performing and listening to the other bands, I saw a focus and sense of pride I have never seen before. In the end, not only did the Aiken High School Band have their best performance of the year, but they brought home first place!”


While the students adventured northward, they stayed at a hotel and visited Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, OH. However, the highlight of the trip was most certainly the competition. It was the greatest experience I ever had, I learned so much from all the bands,” shared Christian, one of the students. 

“What I learned from this trip is to be more locked in with what I want to do,” said Elyjah, another student. “It taught me that there will always be somebody better than you and that you can always improve, no matter where you go.”

Thank You To Woodward Trust

Special thanks to Woodward Trust for making this experience and this victory possible. Aiken’s Band Director specifically said, “I want to thank you so much for giving our students the opportunity to perform in their very first band competition. Given the pandemic, it was a much needed reward for them and their hard work,” said Barton.

Partners Unite to Celebrate Elementary Soccer at TQL Stadium

Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) is partnering with FC Cincinnati Foundation to host an invitational for its elementary soccer program, teaching children basic soccer skills, at Stargel and TQL Stadiums on November 10 from 10 am – 1 pm. Upwards of 350 elementary students from across the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) district will partake in the event, featuring master classes and skill clinics, scrimmages, and tours of the world famous TQL Stadium. The event will be one of the largest celebrations of elementary soccer the city has ever seen, involving partners such as Mercy Health, the University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University.

This event marks the second year of collaboration between ABC and FC Cincinnati. Soccer Unites, presented by Old Spice, is an FC Cincinnati Foundation program which brings soccer programming to youth who may not otherwise be exposed or have the opportunity to play the sport. ABC partners with FC Cincinnati Foundation to deliver this program in CPS elementary schools, eliminating remaining barriers to access. “The uniqueness of this collaboration is that it delivers everything directly to the students: the transportation, the uniforms, the cleats, all of it. We make it easy to play, because everyone deserves to learn the skills and joys of team play,” says Executive Director of ABC, Sally Grimes. The free event, sponsored by First Financial Foundation and TQL Foundation, will take place during the school day with transportation provided by ABC, and meals and gifts provided by FC Cincinnati Foundation.

“FC Cincinnati Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of children through soccer. We are proud to partner with Activities Beyond the Classroom to bring our Soccer Unites program to students across Cincinnati Public Schools,” said Kate Solomon, FC Cincinnati’s Vice President of Community Relations & Executive Director of FCC Foundation. “Today we celebrate all of the students participating in the program and their hard work and growth over the year.”

Barcelona Beats: ABC joins CPS students in Barcelona for jazz education

“Anything is possible, if the opportunity exists.”

From September 1-8, 2022, Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) partnered with the Kennedy Heights Arts Center and Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to take eleven students across the Atlantic to a jazz festival in Barcelona, Spain. 

In addition to several parent chaperones, the CPS Middle School Jazz Combo were accompanied on their trip by Dr. Isidore Rudnick, the Fine Arts Curiculum Manager and Director of the CPS Jazz Academy, as well as ABC’s Executive Director, Sally Grimes. “This is a tremendous, once in a lifetime experience for these students,” said Dr. Isidore Rudnick of the excursion.

The opportunity would never have been offered without the Jazz Festival, an annual event hosted by ABC to connect students across Cincinnati with local and international jazz artists, master classes and workshops, and performance opportunities on the main stage at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. In May 2022, the featured jazz artist was Joan Chamorro, internationally acclaimed jazz artist and educator. He enjoyed his time so thoroughly with our students that he invited them to participate in the 2022 edition of a prominent jazz festival in Barcelona, the Jazzing Festival de Sant Andreu.

With the generosity of a passionate arts supporter, eleven students (and many of their parents) were able to travel to Barcelona to play on an international stage, take classes with musicians from around the world, and experience an entirely different culture. Most of the students on the trip had never left the United States before, and most reported that their greatest anxieties lie around flying for the first time, being away from home, and making mistakes in foreign places. But they also shared their excitement to be learning new jazz skills from people very different from themselves, as well as seeing and experiencing a new culture for the first time. “I’m excited to learn about what it’s like to not be in the United States,” shared Carolina, a seventh grade percussionist from Walnut Hills.

CPS Middle School Jazz Combo Performance in Spain

Check out this video of the CPS Middle School Jazz Combo, featuring the opening song from their performance at the Jazzing Festival de Sant Andreu 2022 in Barcelona. ABC is so proud of what these students accomplished in Spain, and are pleased to share it with our audience.

Jazz Students Make Memories to Last a Lifetime

The students performed at the Jazzing Festival de Sant Andreu on Sunday, September 4th to a packed audience of jazz enthusiasts. The students also attended intimate workshops led by professional musicians throughout the weekend, gaining valuable insight to their craft. Throughout the weekend, the CPS students had the opportunity to socialize and perform with student musicians from Barcelona and the Canary Islands, forming new friendships that cross international boundaries.

The students packed their few days abroad full of amazing experiences. Evelyn, a seventh grade vibraphonist from Clark Montessori, shared her favorite parts of the trip were, “getting to see the view of [Barcelona], performing and practicing with new people, and most importantly being with my band mates.” In fact, many of the students proudly remarked about the bonding experience of doing new things with their peers. “I have a different relationship with everyone,” Tia, a sixth grade flautist from Parker Woods, shared, “I feel like everyone’s closer now.”

“I was only kind of friends with [my fellow Jazz Academy peers], but now I am really good friends with them,” shared a seventh grade saxophonist from Walnut Hills. “We are now going to hang out outside of [the Jazz Academy] too!”

While they certainly learned valuable skills in jazz musicianship and performance, they also shared how excited they were to learn about things completely separate from the jazz experience they’d come for. “I learned that I really enjoy flamenco dancing!” Carolina shared; Tia shared her piqued curiosity in architecture, particularly in La Segrada Familia Catedral; and Ben, a sixth grade trumpeter from Kilgour, learned that soccer is far more than a game in Europe. “Futbol is very important here.”

We at ABC are most proud of the social and emotional skills they honed in Barcelona. Students were reflective on their flight home and shared some of the deeper lessons this trip taught them. “I like adventure,” Jonas, a seventh grade trumpeter from Clark said. Ruby, a sixth grade clarinetist from Parker Woods, shared, “I love flying to new places and exploring their cultures.” Tia proudly shared, “I can be responsible without [the supervision of] my parents.” And finally, one student shared this profound thought: “With the right skills, anything is possible if the opportunity exists.”

ABC Supports Arts Enrichment

ABC is incredibly grateful for the partnership of Dr. Isidore Rudnick, the Fine Arts Curriculum Manager at Cincinnati Public Schools, and all that he contributed to this trip for the students. Dr. Rudnick’s international connections in the jazz world helped create this opportunity in Barcelona, and ABC is proud to have helped turn his vision into a reality. “Thank you to Dr. Rudnick for your incredible dedication to the students you serve,” said Sally Grimes, ABC Executive Director. “We are proud to partner with you on this trip, the International Jazz Festival, and future endeavors supporting musical education for students!”

Please click here to visit and subscribe to our YouTube page, where ABC will upload all of the videos we have obtained during this experience.  You can also click here to access our Facebook page, where our Executive Director kept a public travel diary of the experience as it was happening.

We are so proud to be able to provide opportunities like these to our students across Cincinnati. Do you want to support Cincinnati students having access to experiences like this in the future? Contact our Advancement Department to learn how you can make a difference in students’ lives today!

ABC Doesn’t Take a Summer Break

Once upon a time, many years ago, ABC staff used to call summer our “quiet season.” While schools were out on break, ABC staff would slow down and plan for the year ahead.

When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Cincinnati students back in 2020, we decided that education and enrichment can’t be put on hold. Futhermore, recent data reflects that the average student loses 17-34% of the prior year’s learning gains over summer break, and that learning loss is exacerbated for students in low-income households. 

Nowadays, there is no “quiet season” at ABC! We don’t want summer to be a time of loss and struggle; it should be for fun, experiential learning! We are proud to provide programs and support to our students year-round. With the help of our many partners and the individual schools we work with, we’ve served over 4,600 students this summer alone. Even compared to our impact during the school year, when we serve approximately 15,000 students, this is no number to balk at!

Take a look at some of the fun we’ve been having this summer.

Summer Scholars at Cincinnati Public Schools

Throughout the month of June, ABC partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) in their Summer Scholars initiative.

CPS launched the landmark Summer Scholars program 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 spend their mornings focusing on academics and social/emotional learning, their afternoons are filled with enrichment activities, provided through partnership with ABC and other nonprofits.

Enrichment curriculums were designed mindfully and carefully to cater specifically to the needs and interests of each school’s student population. Some examples of the programming offered include music, visual arts, performing arts, STEM, team sports, American Sign Language, financial literacy, yoga, martial arts, and environmental learning.  

In total, ABC provided enrichment activities to 4,560 students at 19 different CPS schools. This totaled 312 activities per week and 2082 total hours of programming to students during Summer Scholars.

Big City Jazz

This June, ABC helped eleven students in the CPS Jazz Academy have some once in a lifetime experiences. Students participated in an all-expenses paid excursion, first to Pittsburgh, where they had the unique experience of recording their own playing in the MCG Jazz Recording Studio and later played in a jazz club. From there, students traveled to New York City and had the opportunities to play at the historic Harlem Nights Music Club and Lounge, take a Jazz workshop at the Lincoln Center, see a world-class ensemble play Duke Ellington’s top hits, and meet internationally acclaimed Jazz artist and educator Wynton Marsalis.

“Marsalis is perhaps the most recognized jazz artist and educator in the world today. He really doesn’t have any peer. He’s done so many amazing things for jazz education in his life and he’s the model that all of us jazz educators look up to. He’s a brilliant player, amazing composer, multi-Grammy winner, he started the jazz at Lincoln Center program, and directs that orchestra- so for me, one of the real highlights was the students getting to personally meet him,” Dr. Rudnick, Fine Arts Curriculum Manager at Cincinnati Public Schools, commented. 

While in New York City, students also had a chance to visit historic and iconic landmarks, including Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. “Very few student groups get an opportunity like this,” Dr. Rudnick said. This opportunity was especially remarkable, given that it was free to participating students. “We don’t want any student to be excluded due to financial situations.”

ABC consistently supports the Jazz Academy throughout the school year. “Students are always taught about Beethoven and Mozart, but to qualify this as the only culturally significant music is a Eurocentric fallacy. It’s just not true,” said ABC Executive Director Sally Grimes. “Especially in Cincinnati, where we have such a rich history of jazz. That’s why the Jazz Academy is so important. We need to show kids role models of different colors in music; how are kids supposed to be something they can’t see?”

Basketball Camp with NBA Expertise

Over the July 22 weekend, a basketball skills training camp took place with instructors including Tim Hardaway Sr., five-time NBA All-Star Champion, and his son Tim Hardaway. Jr, current shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks. “I’m here, I’ve got my son here, I’ve got my nephews teaching here; this whole opportunity for this camp came about when my brother met the camp director, Daniel Ross. It’s great to have this time with my family, making an impact with so many other families,” Tim Hardaway Sr. shared. 

In partnership with The Ross X Factor, the organization running the camp, ABC offered scholarships to 23 students who otherwise could not have attended the pay-to-play camp. “I want this partnership with ABC to last for years to come,” said camp founder and director Daniel Ross. “This is too good an opportunity for any kid to miss.”

"It's a wonderful thing, [ABC] is doing," said Tim Hardaway Sr. of scholarship opportunity.

The three day-camp took place at Seven Hills High School and included students of all genders grades 3-12. Students honed their skills in speed, agility, and basketball technique as well as built social-emotional skills, such as self-confidence. “These kids could be at home, sitting around, getting into trouble but instead, they’re here. [On day one of camp], we’re wearing them down and getting their blood up; [days two and three], we’re going to teach them about endurance and perseverance,” Tim Hardaway Sr. explained. “These kids didn’t come to goof around, they’re here to work.”

Our special and most ardent thanks to Coach Daniel Ross, Tim Hardaway Sr., and Tim Hardaway Jr. for giving our students such a fantastic opportunity this summer!

Return of the Jazz Fest – ABC Celebrates Increased Impact

You may remember the first Jazz Festival, taking place October 5, 2019 at the Aronoff Center. Over 250 Cincinnati students, grades 4-12, gathered to participate in workshops, masterclasses, and a culminating performance on the mainstage of the Aronoff Center. The evening featured performances from student grounds and an ensemble of professional musicians, including award-winning Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, Todor Bakardzhiev (Bulgaria), pianist Shamie Royston (New York City), bassist Chris Berg (Dayton, Ohio), and drummer Art Gore (Cincinnati). Over 600 members of the community attended this evening performance. The event was so successful that Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) decided to make the event the first of many; the Jazz Festival would be an annual celebration.

A year later, we wrung our hands in anxiety as COVID-19 tore through the city. No international artists would be flying in; no students would get hands-on coaching with their instruments; no unmasked performances would be taking place. We knew our students questioned what the future looked like for Jazz Festival and for their own music instruction. We made ourselves busy connecting students with resources and virtual music instruction, all the while biding our time.

That is, until we got the fateful call: the International Jazz Festival was back. “We were given an unexpected call by the Cincinnati Arts Association sometime in March,” explained Director of Advancement Carmen Lawrence-Bille. “They said they had a date open at the Aronoff and did we want to bring back the Jazz Festival? We took a deep breath, knowing we had only a very short time to pull it all together, and we said yes.”

The International Jazz Festival returned May 7, 2022. Internationally famous jazz saxophonist Joan Chamorro from Barcelona Spain joined 107 students and 11 regional jazz musicians for a full day of workshops, masterclasses, and performance opportunities, followed by an evening performance on the main stage at the Aronoff Center. This year, because we knew cost of tickets was a barrier to access for families at the previous Jazz Festival, ABC waived ticket fees and allowed all members of the public free access to the show. By the time the instruments started playing, 1200 seats were full in the Aronoff Center (about double the attendance from the first Jazz Festival).

The second Jazz Festival increased impact on the Cincinnati community by 153%. “It was outstanding to look out from the stage and see almost the entire orchestra section of the house filled,” Sally Grimes commented. “To know that all of these families and individuals were here to celebrate Jazz and these students… to know that perhaps they’d all wanted to come last time but couldn’t because there was a ticket price, was amazing. We’ve learned from that. The Jazz Festival will remain free and accessible in future years, so that anyone who wants to learn about and appreciate jazz will be able to.”

Jazz Festival 2023

We are pleased to announce that the third annual Jazz Festival will take place May 6, 2023 at the Aronoff Center. “We’re incredibly excited for this event and are planning for it to be bigger and more impactful than ever,” shared Carmen Lawrence-Bille.

In the meantime, Jazz lovers and our student musicians will have plenty to keep them busy.

In September, members of the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Jazz Academy will visit Barcelona with Fine Arts Curriculum Manager Dr. Isi Rudnick and ABC Executive Director Sally Grimes to join this year’s international artist, Joan Chamorro, at his own city’s jazz festival, the Jazzing International Jazz Festival. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students,” Dr. Rudnick excitedly shared, “and it would not have happened for these students without the International Jazz Festival or ABC’s help.”

Furthermore, in November, our CPS Jazz Academy will host a Jazz Cabaret Fundraiser at Kennedy Heights Arts Center to support the Jazz Academy and all the inspiring work these students do. Marlin McKay, Cincinnati-area Trumpetist and professor at Georgetown college, applauds the program, saying, ““What Dr. Rudnick has accomplished by founding and growing the CPS Jazz Academy is astounding. This program is a national model of school and community jazz education. Every aspect of providing high quality jazz education to students has been carefully constructed by Dr. Rudnick. We are in the early planning stages of starting something similar in Lexington, Kentucky and we will model it on the Jazz Academy in Cincinnati. This is the most inclusive and dynamic jazz education program for school age students I have seen.”

If you would like to support the Jazz Academy or the third annual Jazz Festival, please consider making a donation or contacting us for more information!

200 Cincinnati-Area Students Attend Black Futures Program at TQL Stadium

D.A.D. Initiative Program to Focus on Remembering Black History and Developing Teen’s Futures

On February 24, 2022, The D.A.D. Initiative (Directing Adolescent Development) hosted the 2022 Black Futures program. The program took place at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati’s Historic West End, with over 200 teen students in attendance. The D.A.D. partnered with ABC, the FC Cincinnati Foundation, Buildwell Development Group, and other local organizations to support the full day event.

“Black Futures” was designed to honor black history while also focusing forward by providing career exposure for black teenagers in the Greater Cincinnati area. The program offered a new and engaging way for black high school students to learn about potential career options directly from successful black professionals who have exceled in various fields.

“All too often black adolescents are simply unaware of the career possibilities in front of them,” says Tyran Stallings, Executive Director at The D.A.D. Initiative. “But in a single day during Black History Month, we provided a forum for local students to learn from role models who look like them, about the infinite and very real career possibilities available to them.”

The 200 students in 11th and 12th grades met with 35 black professionals spanning a wide array of career fields. Not only did the students gain career insight, but also learned about the journey that these professionals experienced. The intention was for students to see the similarities between themselves and the speakers, learn about careers they might not have known about, and thus find motivation for their own future success.

ABC was honored to partner with the D.A.D. Initiative to sponsor and support the Black Futures Event at TQL Stadium. In addition to ABC, the D.A.D. Initiative partnered with several key sponsors to host Black Futures, including:

• FC Cincinnati Foundation
• Buildwell Development Group representing a wide range of careers have volunteered to engage Black students in candid conversations about their respective paths to success.

“All too often Black adolescents are simply unaware of the career possibilities in front of them,” says Tyran Stallings, Executive Director at The D.A.D. Initiative. “But in a single day during Black History Month, we provided a forum for local students to learn from role models who look like them, about the infinite and very real career possibilities available to them.”

About The D.A.D. Initiative

The Directing Adolescent Development (D.A.D.) Initiative is a nonprofit founded in 2013 when founder, Tyran Stallings, noticed the need to grow black male participation in the educational process, where only 2% of teachers are black men. The ethos behind the initiative is that “the foundation for massive change starts with incremental ones”.

The D.A.D. Initiative now serves thousands as it engages students, families, and the community in programs spanning from technological education to workforce development. The initiative provides mentorship, education workshops, 21st century skills development courses, summer enrichment programs, community health events, and workforce development trainings.

ABC’s Cheri Jordan Named Resource Coordinator of the Year By Adopt A Class

Activities Beyond the Classroom is proud to share that Cheri Jordan was named the 2022 Resource Coordinator of the Year by Adopt A Class.

Cheri Jordan is the resource coordinator at Silverton Elementary, where 74% of students come from low-income households. “We’ve seen some really tremendous successes at Silverton Elementary, due to Cheri’s hard work,” shared Deputy Director Rachel Stallings. “She has connected the school to some great support and been essential to nurturing the relationship with other nonprofits like Adopt a Class.”

“Cheri is truly a joy to work with,” said Director of Advancement Carmen Lawrence-Bille. “She is an excellent listener who hears the needs of her community. She’s great at finding solutions to meet these needs, and she follows through on these ideas with clear communication and efficiency. She’s a team member I know I can count on. I’m not at all surprised Cheri won this award; she is an exemplary resource coordinator.”  

“Our resource coordinators have tremendous impact in their schools,” said Stallings. “Through ABC’s network of support and partners, our team is able to bring projects to fruition incredibly efficiently.” ABC’s resource coordinators connect students and families to organizations and supports to promote their success and wellness both in and outside of school. “We are incredibly proud of the work our resource coordinators do in their ten schools across Cincinnati and we plan on growing our resource coordination program at ABC.”

Adopt A Class Celebration Breakfast at Greenacres

Adopt A Class Executive Director, Sonya Fultz, presents Cheri Jordan with the award for the Resource Coordinator of the Year

Cheri was honored at an awards ceremony held on June 7, 2022, at Greenacres Arts Center. The audience consisted of luminaries from across Cincinnati’s corporate, nonprofit, and government sectors. “It was a beautiful ceremony, held in one of the most gorgeous spaces in Cincinnati, filled with honorees that are making this city a better place every day,” commented Carmen Lawrence-Bille.

Adopt a Class is present in 33 schools across the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky region. With the help of over 130 partner organizations, it has reached 5,000 students in our communities. It was through a partnership with Adopt a Class and ABC’s Cheri Jordan that enabled VEGA America’s field trip to Silverton Elementary this past school year. ABC is grateful to have Adopt A Class provide incredible learning opportunities at four CPS schools where ABC is the lead agency, and we hope to strengthen our partnership with their organization, and increase their presence where we are the lead agency.

Brian Leshner Commended by CPS Board of Education

On June 13, 2022, former Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) Executive Director, Brian Leshner, received a formal commendation from the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) Board of Education for his 18 years of service to the district.

“Brian has always completed his executive obligations and duties for ABC with understanding, consideration, and good humor and always with a sense of integrity, keen intelligence, and a gentleness of spirit to everyone,” reads the commendation, which was passed unanimously by the six board members present. Brian attended the meeting in-person to accept the commendation, where he received a standing ovation from the Board of Education and an engraved plaque celebrating his achievements.

“Brian has done a magnificent job,” Dick Friedman, ABC’s President of the Board, acknowledged to the Board of Education. “We are so pleased, and we thank [the Board of Education] for the commendation and the resolution. Brian deserves everything. He is the best of the best.” ABC board members Bob Bedinghaus and Carol Gibbs, as well as current Executive Director Sally Grimes, also joined Dick, standing behind Brian Leshner as this resolution was passed. Their glowing smiles as Brian received his plaque spoke volumes about the pride they each feel in being a part of Brian and ABC’s stories.

Brian shook hands, bumped elbows, and hugged all board members present with a mutual respect and admiration that comes from years of collaboration and support. As Brian accepted his commendation, he shared, “I said [this position] was going to be my ‘legacy job,’ and it turned out to be my legacy job. I can’t feel any better about anything I’ve ever done, than head up ABC.”

Though Brian has exited the role as Executive Director, he remains an active member of the ABC family as a member of the advancement staff. To learn more about Brian Leshner’s accomplishments with ABC or to congratulate Brian on this commendation, please visit or get in touch.