Young Writers Bring Cincinnati’s History to Life

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of Activities Beyond the Classroom (Winton Hills Academy), the National Youth Foundation, Kappa Alpha Si, Alpha Delta Boule, and Families Forward (Bond Hill Academy), elementary school students in grades 5th through 8th are now published authors.

Big O was authored by students at Winton Hills Academy under the leadership of Shelby Zimmer, Resource Coordinator of Activities Beyond the Classroom. Judge Jones was authored by students at Bond Hill Academy, under the leadership of Ms. Nettles from Families Forward. 

“Big O” and “Judge Jones” books written and illustrated by CPS Students hit library shelves!

Living Legends Shared Stories with Students

To write the books, students at two CPS, Bond Hill Academy and Winton Hills Academy, were given the opportunity to learn first-hand about the city’s past from two living legends. Civil Rights Icon Judge Nathaniel Jones and NBA Hall of Fame Legend Oscar Robertson spent time with the students at their respective schools, and shared their stories of overcoming obstacles. The students used this information to write and illustrate a biographical book about each of the living legends.

Students Share Their Published Books at Library Book Ceremony

Illustrator, Marcus D. shows off his drawing of Judge Nathaniel Jones at the Book Ceremony.

On Saturday, January 19, 2019, a special ceremony honoring the students and living legends was held at the main branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.  At the ceremony, the students saw their printed books for the very first time. The students loved being able to see all of their hard work and dedication pay off.  Marcus D., a student at Bond Hill Academy, shared his excitement as he thumbed through the pages. 

“It took so long to draw the family portrait of Judge Jones that I thought I never would finish.”  Marcus spent his entire lunch hour, his recess time and much of his afternoon class time working on the drawing.  “I’m just so proud,” he said, as he held up the drawing to show his dad.

Jim Anderson, former running backs coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, was one of the Project Assistants who helped put together the books. Planning included a week-long workshop at each school, interviews with Judge Jones and Oscar Robertson, and coordinating with Sophia Henson (the Executive Director of the National Youth Foundation) to put it all together. Anderson also served as the emcee at the book ceremony.  When asked about the impact he hopes this project will have he indicated that “I am still coaching, just at a different level.”  To complete the project students had to exercise “teamwork, cohesive collaboration, commitment and learn to stick with it,” added Coach Anderson.

Judge Nathaniel Jones poses with Dr. Wilson Okello.

During the festivities, library patrons were treated to awesome performances. One such performance was done by Amiri West, an 11th grad Pianist who attends Walnut Hills High School.  Dr. Wilson Kwamogi Okello performed a powerful spoken word piece in which he encouraged the students to continue to strive for excellence.  After his performance, Dr. Okello thanked Judge Jones for a scholarship that helped him pursue his higher education and led him to become an educator at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  Nakinah W., one of the students from Winton Hills, shared a poem in which she thanked Judge Jones and Mr. Robertson for continuing to serve as heroes in the community.  


The Legendary Oscar Robertson shares his life’s story with patrons at the library.

The National Youth Foundation, whose goal is to enrich the lives of children through creative educational programming, presented copies of the book to the library staff.  Thanks to the generosity of the National Youth Foundation the books written by the young authors will be available at libraries throughout Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


Due to this collaborative effort, children throughout the region were able to learn about the city’s rich history.  These stories, written by the students, provide a unique perspective about life in Cincinnati, and prove to us all that when we work together, we can accomplish great things.