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Inspiring Minds helps city students prepare for year

Staff photo / Bob Coupland Renda White, center, K-8 coordinator for Inspiring Minds, assists eighth-graders London Johnson, left, and Tyraj Williamson with a summer activity on Somalia.

With the COVID-19 pandemic providing a challenging year for many students, Inspiring Minds has returned to offering a variety of services and assistance to students in Warren and Youngstown as they prepare for the 2021-22 year.

Danajah Coleman, a high school instructor with IM who is a Warren G. Harding High School graduate and former IM participant, said while summer 2020 was mostly online, this summer has returned to in-person activities.

“I think the kids are excited to all be back in the same place and to be able to take part again,” Coleman said.

She said five areas being addressed this summer are health and wellness, college visits, personal wealth, education and exposure.

In Warren schools, the program began July 6 and will continue through early August.

“We focus on the high school students preparing for college and for college visits by doing research. We look at historically black colleges and universities. We look at what they can do after high school whether going to college, the military or the workforce,” Coleman said.

Starting as freshmen, students begin visiting colleges.

“I remember when I was in Inspiring Minds how much it helped me when I visited 14 colleges, including the University of Toledo,” Coleman said.

Coleman, who is in college studying communications and criminal justice, said before COVID-19, students would go to the colleges and stay for a week speaking to people in various departments.

Jessica Winters, IM program administrator, said seventh- and eighth-grade students also begin looking at colleges.

Braylin Dyson, a sophomore at Harding, said the help he has received from IM staff has improved his grades over the years.

“I have really learned a lot over the years,” said Dyson, who has been in IM since elementary school.

Kwane Austin, a senior at Valley Christian School, said IM allowed him to do things he otherwise would not have been able to do.

“A lot of students don’t have the opportunities to go to the different colleges,” he said.

Winters said during COVID-19, new rooms were added to the IM building in Warren. Winters said Youngstown schools have programs available for sixth to 12th grades.

“The Youngstown schools do the same programs, including the college visits. They go to Florida on the exposure trips visiting colleges in Sarasota. They look at careers in marine biology and have the opportunity to be on a boat on the ocean and fly in an airplane, which will be the first for some of them,” Winters said.

More than 70 students from Youngstown and Warren are going on the Florida trip as well as youth from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Raleigh, North Carolina,

Renda White, K-8 coordinator, said seventh and eighth grades are the biggest groups with more than 40 students.

She said for the summer, the students are focusing on learning about Somalia and its people and language, and also famous African-American nurses and educators from the Mahoning Valley. The students also learned about writing a resume.

White said each school in Warren, which includes Lincoln, McGuffey, Willard and Jefferson, has an African country on which they will do a presentation on as well as perform a skit.

London Johnson, an eighth-grader in Warren who started with IM in fourth grade, said the event has been educational and fun with the college visits and learning about Somolia.

“We have learned the alphabet and new dances from Somalia and are preparing for presentations,” she said.

Tyraj Williamson, an eighth-grader in Warren who is marking his first year with IM, said he enjoys the fun field trips.

“Going to YSU really inspired me. It gets me thinking about college. With Somalia, I am learning a dance and also making posters and a flag,” he said.

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