“Growing up I had been taught that regardless of your means, “giving back” is not an option but an obligation. During the early years of starting my own business, National Marketshare Group, Inc., I became very aware of different ways to give back. Yet, until 2003, as a company we were so focused on our business that we fell into the trap of writing checks to fulfill our obligation of giving back. As our company matured, though, I realized we needed to do more than write a check. My team needed to be involved in the community where we worked Monday through Friday. I encouraged our team to identify a project in which we could all be involved.
My team and I recognized a need for business involvement at Oyler Community Learning Center, the school just a few blocks from their office in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Lower Price Hill. I wanted my employees to serve as role models for the students and offer them a vision for what they could achieve upon attaining a high school diploma or college degree. We launched a pen pal project with a fifth grade class. Over the course of the year, National Marketshare employees found themselves engaged in discussions about workplace expectations, the importance of finishing school, the concept of work ethic, and students’ visions for their future.
Much of what we gained was, simply put, understanding. We had learned much about a world most of us were not very familiar with; the world of urban school children growing up in poverty. We learned that the students we had gotten to know counted on their school for breakfast and lunch. While 100% of the school population was classified as Titled 1, over 29% came from families that were homeless or struggled with housing stability, over 65% lived in a single adult household and 21% had special needs. We learned about the mental and emotional struggles children living in poverty deal with every day.
I realized that this was a model that could easily be replicated. I sought out other businesses to partner with Oyler, and within one year, each of the 670 students had been “adopted” by a business or a community group. Over the past ten years, Adopt A Class (AAC) has expanded into 27 schools in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, Currently, over 300 businesses and community groups are working with over 7,500 students to teach social skills and relationship-building. Adopt A Class is now a nonprofit organization whose mission is to facilitate personal, sustained connections between members of the business community and the students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grades.
A decade later, AAC is continuing to grow and impact many lives in our community while bringing camaraderie and friendship to businesses and civic groups. The countless stories, videos, and cards we see shared between mentor groups and classrooms serve as an inspiration for the work of this organization. Thank you for giving yourself, your time, and your hope to those who need it most. This story is truly the story of a community bonding together.
Founder, Adopt A Class Foundation
“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” John Wooden