All posts by Sally Grimes

ABC Hosts FREE Nike FC Soccer Experience

ABC is thrilled to partner with Nike, US Soccer Federation, and US Soccer Camps to host FREE soccer clinics for students in Cincinnati. These fun and interactive sessions will teach students basic soccer skills, while sharing life lessons and encouraging children that they can achieve their goals. 

Children will not need to bring any special equipment but can wear cleats/shin guards if they’d like. Participants will receive a new Nike camp t-shirt, a brand new soccer ball and plenty of other surprises (while supplies last)!

Nike FC Soccer Experience

Sunday, September 17

Stargel Stadium

501 Ezzard Charles Dr, Cincinnati, OH 45203

All skill levels, Co-Ed, Grades 2-7

Session 1 (grades 2-4): 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Session 2 (grades 5-7): 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm

ABC Supports CPS Families Thanks to $2,500 Grant

Last week, Activities Beyond the Classroom purchased $2,500 worth of non-perishable foods, personal care items, and cleaning supplies for Cincinnati Public Schools families affected by the COVID-19 closures. With many people out of work and childcare and after school programs shut down, families are struggling to purchase basic necessities. This effort is supported through a micro grant from REALITY, an initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and we are grateful for the support and thrilled to be able to help the families!

Here are some pictures of the shopping trip, as well as volunteers sorting, bagging and distributing the items.

A Letter From Brian Leshner, ABC Executive Director

Greetings ABC partners, supporters, and friends,

I hope that you and your families are staying safe and healthy as we navigate COVID-19 in our community. Never in my time at ABC could I have imagined a scenario like the one we’re living in now, with all Cincinnati Public Schools closed and CPS children at home.

As a friend of ABC, I want you to know how we have pivoted in response to the current situation. Throughout all of this, I have focused on two priorities: First, to ensure that ABC continues to serve CPS children and families wherever we are most needed. And second, that when this is all over, ABC is standing as strong as ever, with a full staff ready to implement our programs without any interruptions.

While our work looks different, ABC is still here, serving the children of CPS. Rather than delivering extracurricular programming, our 30 staff members are focused on the immediate needs of the children in our communities. Our work continues in the following ways:

  • Our Resource Coordinators at nine schools are in constant communication with their school’s families, ensuring parents and students have the support they need while schools are closed, such as access to mental health professionals, food, and academic and enrichment activities. Plus, they are working with school partners to explore continuing student services via virtual platforms.
  • Our Athletic Directors at nine schools are focused on providing structure to student athletes, offering at-home training routines, regular video and phone meetings, and outlining ways that coaches can stay involved in their athlete’s lives. In addition, plans are underway to recognize and celebrate graduating seniors, especially those who will not be able to participate in their spring season sports.
  • Our Program Staff is coordinating efforts as the Site Champion at two of CPS’s food distribution sites, Winton Hills Academy and Cheviot School. As Site Champion, ABC is gathering donations of food, personal care items, and books and activities, and coordinating volunteers to be on-site at the two schools three days each week to distribute donations.
  • Our Office Staff continues to keep the business side of ABC moving forward, planning for the future as well as rotating through the office to stay on top of money coming in and money going out.

These are challenging times, to say the least. But at the same time, I am humbled and full of gratitude for the outpouring of support and energy that we’ve seen these last few weeks. Our staff, volunteers, board members, and supporters have risen to the challenge, doing everything they can to make sure that CPS children stay healthy and engaged.

On that note, I’d like to send a personal thank you to the ABC staff. Our staff has gone above and beyond, jumping into this unknown situation and staying focused on supporting the children they work with every day. The passion for their work and love for the children shine through, and I am very proud to know they are representing Activities Beyond the Classroom.

Thank you for your continued support of ABC.


Brian Leshner
Executive Director

ABC Welcomes Armand Tatum as District Academic Advisor for Athletics

Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) announced today the addition of Armand Tatum as the District Academic Advisor for Athletics, a newly created role that coordinates and supports on-site Academic Advisors at every Cincinnati Public Schools high school to provide mentorship and guidance to help student athletes achieve both academic and athletic success.

As the District Academic Advisor for Athletics, Tatum is responsible for implementing, and maintaining the details for a new Cincinnati Public Schools program—the Academic & Athletic Accountability Pathway (AAA Pathway). The ultimate goal is to increase student GPA, athlete eligibility, graduation rates, and post-secondary acceptance and entrance rates.

Tatum’s well-rounded experience makes him the perfect candidate for this role. A 1994 graduate of Walnut Hills High School, he was a three-year varsity football player, Queen City All-Star, and was elected to play in the East/West All-Star Game. He holds Business and Biblical Studies degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University, and has worked in CPS in many roles, including five years as an Instructional Assistant and a long-term substitute teacher, and three years as an Academic Advisor for Student Athletes at Walnut Hills High School. He has also been the Varsity Head Coach for the Western Hills Football Program for three years.

“The AAA Pathway program and Armand’s role are the result of a collaboration between ABC and CPS,” said Brian Leshner, Executive Director of Activities Beyond the Classroom. “We have been working with Josh Hardin, CPS Athletics Manager, to figure out ways to help student athletes maintain academic eligibility to both play their sports and also to secure scholarships for post-secondary education. Armand’s background as an athlete and as the Academic Advisor at Walnut give him the experience he needs to mentor and guide student athletes to be successful both in and out of their sports.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve our future leaders in this capacity,” said Tatum. “I am thankful to Joshua Hardin for recognizing the need to develop the AAA Pathway program and for bringing it from an idea to reality, and to Brian Leshner for the opportunity to lead the charge. I look forward to helping our student athletes obtain the tools and skills needed to take their athletic and academic careers to the next level.”


Activities Beyond the Classroom is a nonprofit that creates and manages more than 200 athletic and cultural extracurricular programs and activities, ranging from foreign languages to team sports, for more than 15,000 Cincinnati Public Schools students every year. ABC has a strong and longstanding partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools that includes management of high school athletics throughout much of the district.

ABC Welcomes Wayne Box Miller and Brandon Holmes to Board of Directors

Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) announced today the addition of two new members to its Board of Directors, Wayne Box Miller and Brandon Holmes.

Miller is an award winning media professional, communications veteran and diversity consultant. He is also the pre-game and post-game host for the Cincinnati Bengals Radio Network, a member of the Cincinnati Enquirer Board of Contributors, and a diversity training and facilitator for corporations and non-profits. He currently serves on the LaRosa’s Hall of Fame Committee, the CPS Athletic Hall of Fame Committee, and is involved with his fraternity’s (Kappa Alpha Psi) Golf Scholarship Committee and their Bond Hill Elementary mentoring partnership. Miller is a graduate of Woodward High School and was inducted into the Morehead State University Alumni Hall of Fame.

Miller said, “I am honored to join ABC knowing the focus and emphasis they place on providing our youth with a myriad of activities at no cost. Understanding how these activities translate to building confidence, promoting self-esteem and creating pathways to positive outcomes is easy to embrace, and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to fulfill ABC’s mission.”

Holmes, who joins the ABC Board of Directors for the second time, is the Director of Real Estate & Operations for the Avondale Development Corporation (ADC). Prior to joining ADC Brandon served as a Program Officer for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Cincinnati and served as the founding Executive Director of the Peoria LISC office which opened late 2012. Brandon has spent a majority of his career utilizing his real estate, community development, and finance expertise to help improve and rebuild economically challenged neighborhoods.

“The progress ABC has made since my initial term on the board several years ago is very impressive,” said Holmes. “I’m excited and proud to be part of an organization that positively impacts our youth and our future leaders.”

With the election of Miller and Holmes, the ABC Board of Directors now includes nine members with diverse backgrounds in athletics, nonprofits, business, education, community development, communications, and politics. Dick Friedman, President of the Board of Directors, said “We are fortunate to welcome such well-known community leaders to the Board of Directors. Box and Brandon bring a great deal of significant expertise and knowledge that will complement the efforts and energies of the Board as we continue to support and assist the children of Cincinnati Public Schools.”

Phillip O’Neal joins Western Hills High School as New Athletic Director

ABC welcomes Phillip O’Neal as the new Athletic Director at Western Hills High School!

Chuck Richardson III, Western Hills High School’s current Athletic Director, moves to Trotwood Madison High School, and O’Neal will become the school’s next Athletic Director effective July 1, 2018.

O’Neal received his bachelor’s degree in Communications at the University of Cincinnati. O’Neal is a commissioned officer in the Ohio National Guard and uses his leadership experience to positively impact the people he works with. A Walnut Hills graduate and six year veteran as CPS staff, O’Neal spent multiple seasons as a girls’ basketball coach for junior high and high school teams in the district and most recently served as the Athletic Director at Riverview East High School. While at Riverview East, O’Neal dramatically improved the school’s growing athletic department. O’Neal will now bring his tradition of excellence and impact to Western Hills High School.

“I am excited for my transition to West High and am thankful to Activities Beyond the Classroom’s Executive Director Brian Leshner for the opportunity to build on the legacy left by the previous athletic directors,” O’Neal said. “I’m grateful to the staff at Riverview East, especially Principal Charlene Myers and Assistant Principal Jason Dearwester, for the opportunity to grow Riverview East’s athletics, and now, with the support of West High Principal Carlos Blair, Dater Principal Steve Sippel, and CPS Athletic Manager Josh Hardin, I look forward to pushing the West High tradition of success to the next level.”

“I’m very impressed with Phillip’s depth of knowledge and desire for growth, and I have no doubt that he is the right addition to our team of nine athletic directors at ABC,” said Leshner. Hardin added, “It is exciting to have a great CPS alum continuing to lead our programs. Phil did an outstanding job at Riverview East and I look forward to having him take the lead at West High and Dater.”

About Western Hills

Western Hills High School is a school of choice within Cincinnati Public Schools and offers academic rigor to more than 2,300 students. Western Hills is combined with Dater High School for all high school athletics and is a Division 1 institution. The student body is culturally and ethnically diverse, with students attending from every major neighborhood on the west side of Cincinnati. Western Hills High School Athletics offers more than 10 varsity sports engaging hundreds of students annually.

ABC Awarded Four Community Connectors Grants Totaling $483,700

High school students (in red) and elementary school students (in blue) tour Central State University as part of the mentoring program.

Activities Beyond the Classroom (ABC) announced today that it was awarded four Community Connectors grants totaling $483,700 that will be used to support mentoring programs in Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) during the 2018-2019 school year.

The four grants are:

  • $150,000 to expand Owning our Destinies, a mentoring program in high schools throughout the district
  • $150,000 to develop Owning our Destinies in elementary schools throughout the district
  • $99,700 to expand the See It, Believe It, Achieve It! mentoring program at Fredrick Douglass Elementary School
  • $84,000 to expand the See It, Believe It, Achieve It! mentoring program at John P. Parker Elementary School

In these programs, ABC works with CPS to create and manage mentoring programs that pair high school students and elementary-aged children with adults or older students to develop year-long mentoring relationships. Through various activities, experiential learning opportunities, and mentoring sessions, student participants will engage in setting SMART goals to be prepared for 21st century careers, character building activities, developing pathways to achievement, building a sense of resiliency, and believing in a positive future. The mentoring programs also provide activities that foster financial literacy, entrepreneurship skills, and career readiness. A total of 465 students participate in the four programs.

Specific activities within each program vary depending on the needs of the students. For example, last year at John P. Parker a group of paired high school mentors and elementary students toured Central State University and learned about college, the importance of getting good grades, and how to prepare for a post-high school education. Service is a theme that is also emphasized in the program. The students participated in a food drive, and started a gardening project in which they were responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of an on-site pumpkin patch. Also, the high school students held fundraisers to raise money for the elementary students to take a field trip that followed several key Underground Railroad sites from Kentucky to Canada.

Rachel Stallings, ABC Program Director, said “Mentoring programs such as these encourage children to believe in a positive future and provides them with key problem-solving and social skills that are necessary to be successful in life. ABC is proud to work with CPS on these important programs, and we are honored to be the recipients of the four grants.”

Community Connectors began in 2014 when Ohio governor John Kasich and the Ohio legislature joined forces to design a program to strengthen communities, encourage mentoring opportunities and create new pathways for civic engagement that would result in higher educational achievement, higher levels of well-being and health, and workforce readiness for Ohio. The Community Connectors program helps reach these goals by bringing together students, their parents, schools, communities, faith- or values-based organizations and businesses to work together to mentor local children.

UPDATE: Would you like to see how these grant funds are continually impacting the lives of CPS students?  Check out this News Story, (Aired on October 29, 2018) featuring Girls To Women, one of the initiatives that ABC is helping to implement in 20 local schools.

ABC’s Youth Tennis Program: A Video Walkthrough

Activities Beyond the Classroom’s Youth Tennis Program started four years ago with the goal of partnering with the Cincinnati Public School System to integrate tennis into their PE classes. Four years later there are over 5,000 students involved and we now offer after school tennis programs as well. With the objective of teaching students to be active, sportsmanship, teamwork and determination, the Youth Tennis Program sets students up for success on and off the court.

Learning Life Lessons on the Soccer Field

Increasingly popular at all age levels, soccer has slowly but surely found a place in the hearts of many young Americans.

Cincinnati, being a city that is in the process of getting its own MLS team, is a particularly fertile ground these days for all soccer-related activities. Therefore, it’s no surprise Activities Beyond the Classroom, Cincinnati’s premier extracurricular organization, has been a driving force in bringing soccer to the city. Continue reading Learning Life Lessons on the Soccer Field

The ABC Martial Arts Program: A Video Walkthrough

The After School Martial Arts Program provided by Activities Beyond the Classroom focuses on the core principals of respect and discipline. The expert teachers, like Master RJ Trusty, teach a balance of martial arts techniques focusing around the physical and mental training that comes along with these skills.By providing these programs, Activities Beyond the Classroom is giving after school programs to schools that previously could not afford them and teaching students important skills and mental fortitude.