Cities like Cleveland typically have rich assets in their “eds and meds”: top-tier academic and medical institutions that draw people from around the world. In NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology, we at the Cleveland Foundation and our partners have created a dynamic resource that plays in both sectors, opening young minds to the value of education and training economically disadvantaged adults for careers as medical professionals.
NewBridge grew from seeds we planted in partnership with Bill Strickland, founder of the highly successful Manchester Bidwell Corp. and a 1996 MacArthur fellow. With support from Manchester Bidwell, the foundation laid the groundwork to replicate the Pittsburgh organization’s programs in Cleveland, conducting a feasibility study, interviews, and focus groups that substantiated the need for a local arts education and job training center.
Youth arts classes started in fall 2010 with 90 ninth graders from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Since then, 429 youths from more than 40 local high schools both inside and outside the city have gone through the program. Some 55 percent of NewBridge students are male, an unusually high number for after-school programming. NewBridge has expanded its offering to include high school sophomores and juniors among the 177 students enrolled in fall 2012 classes.
For students, NewBridge represents a caring community where they can express themselves safely under the guidance of accomplished artists who are also gifted teachers. Each trimester concludes with an art exhibition that showcases students’ work. Ultimately, NewBridge aims to nurture a lifelong love of learning in students and motivate them to stay in school.
The first adult training class launched in April 2011. Five months later, 14 phlebotomy technician graduates donned their white coats. In July 2012, seven more new phlebotomists joined 15 newly trained pharmacy technicians at graduation ceremonies. Of these 36 graduates, 22 have secured jobs to date and one has gone on to pursue higher education.
Cleveland’s leading health care providers had significant input in shaping the curricula for these programs, thus ensuring that graduates would be well prepared for employment. Many trainees are unemployed or underemployed, and many are parents and heads of households in economic distress. Their pride in becoming self-sufficient, productive members of the community is palpable. News of their success is spreading: Since December 2011, 820 applicants have vied for 84 spaces in the adult training programs.
NewBridge is changing individual lives. On a larger scale, it’s encouraging dialogue between the community and its internationally renowned anchor institutions—the eds and meds—that breaks down barriers and sets the stage for future partnerships.
The Cleveland Foundation featured the NewBridge story in the spring 2012 issue of its donor publication, Giving Voice. We are proud to have convened the players and catalyzed the launch of this worthy program in Cleveland. Today, NewBridge stands as a testament to Bill Strickland’s wise dictum: “Change the environment. Change the assumptions. People are capable of extraordinary things.”
India Pierce Lee is program director for neighborhoods, housing, and community development at the Cleveland Foundation.