April 2022
A Note from our Executive Director

Dear Friends,
I hope everyone has had a wonderful month. April has been another productive month for Project GRAD Akron. We have been busy with programs for students, held a very successful 8th annual March GRADness fundraiser, and some of our staff members were able to enjoy some time away from the office during spring break for the Akron Public Schools!
We have been busy preparing for close of the school-year activities, graduations (high school and college), as well as planning for an array of summer activities and recruiting students for same, just to highlight a few things! We celebrated our interns during Volunteer Appreciation Month and our staff and Board have been busy supporting many community events! To all of our volunteers, thank you for donating your time and energy to support Project GRAD Akron and the students we serve in the Akron Public Schools! We hope you realize how much we appreciate all of our volunteers!
In this newsletter, please allow me a few minutes to share some of the great news about the work of Project GRAD Akron and this e-newsletter's thankful highlight! Some of you may have read this information in the newspapers, on social media, on our website; learned about it at our schools; or you may have heard about it through word of mouth. So much has been happening and we thought we would give you a brief update about the expansion of our services to additional schools in the Akron Public Schools, which now includes the Buchtel, East, Kenmore-Garfield, and North Clusters!
In the spring of last year, Project GRAD Akron approached the Akron Public Schools (APS) about the district applying for a grant opportunity with the U.S. Department of Education. As the Executive Director of Project GRAD Akron, for many years, Executive Directors from other Project GRAD sites have shared about their successes with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) and how they have been able to make a significant difference in the lives of young people.
It is a huge undertaking and requires a great deal of work, strong collaborations, data, and a very lengthy and detailed evidence-based proposal! Working in a very short time period (approximately 30 days), we were authorized by the APS District to pursue this highly competitive opportunity. Project GRAD Akron was the lead partner and we secured the services of Metis & Associates to assist us with this huge undertaking of writing a federal grant! So many people assisted the Akron Public Schools and Project GRAD Akron with this proposal and we are forever grateful for their support, namely, Summit Education Initiative, the University of Akron, Stark State College, Kent State University, United Way of Summit & Medina, and many elected officials, corporate and non-profit leaders, parents, and school leaders. People wrote letters of support, provided data and/or insight, and many school leaders (principals, directors of various APS programs, and other school personnel), sat through hours and hours of interviews with me and Dr. Monica Womack to gain a deeper understanding of the needs of the students, families, and schools. We wrote the grant with an equity lens to make certain that we were focused on eliminating barriers to success for all students in the Akron Public Schools.

In September, we were notified initially by Congressman Tim Ryan's office that our grant titled, "AIM HIGH AKRON" was successful! We later found out from the U.S. Department of Education that the grant received perfect scores in all of the required categories! Working together with the Akron Public Schools, Project GRAD Akron, university partners, and other stakeholders, this grant will provide additional services and resources for schools, students, and families through APS's College and Career Academies' model and expanding PGA's College and Career Central services. The grant (approximately $1.2 million annually) will serve 1,500 students currently in the 6th and 7th grades and follow them for the next seven years! In a nutshell, all of the current 6th and 7th graders at the following middle schools are part of the GEAR UP cohort: Buchtel, East, Innes, and Jennings and they will be followed to the following high schools: Buchtel, East, Kenmore-Garfield, and North; and eventually to their 1st year of post-secondary enrollment. Please note: The grant and the funding were awarded to the Akron Public Schools, and PGA is one of the participating organizations. We are so pleased with this opportunity to serve as the lead partner and we will keep you updated about PGA's involvement during these seven years!

AIM HIGH Akron GEAR UP is just one of several opportunities that Project GRAD Akron has to work with APS students. As such, we will continue to seek funding to support PGA's other initiatives, programs, and scholarships! In future e-newsletters, we will highlight many of our other programs and those who make the work possible through their generous funding.

In closing, thank you for your generous support and for taking the time to read our e-newsletters. I appreciate all of the emails, calls, and letters of encouragement. We are so blessed and truly appreciative of your outpouring of love and support. Feel visit our website for additional information about Project GRAD Akron and do not hesitate to contact me at 330-761-3056 or via email at jsilasbutler@projectgradakron.org with your questions, comments, or suggestions! Take care and please share our e-newsletter with others!


Jacqueline "Jackie" Silas-Butler, Esq.
Executive Director
A Moment with PGA Scholar, Mikailah Ramsey!
Our PGA Scholar highlight this month is Mikailah Ramsey!

Mikailah graduated from Buchtel High School in 2017. After high school, she attended Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee! She first majored in Accounting, but decided to switch to Business Information Systems. "I chose TSU because I wanted to move to Nashville. It is a growing city and I knew there would be a lot of job connections and opportunities to explore after college,” Mikailah said. 
On May 7th, Mikailah will graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. She is looking for entry-level jobs in IT Network Security, Auditing IT Analyst, Financial Analyst, Business Analyst, or Data Entry.
In addition to attending Tennessee State University, Mikailah chose a path that others might consider. During her senior year of high school and sophomore year of college, Mikailah attended Stark State College and took her classes online. She says, "I had a wonderful experience because the professors were really hands-on. I was able to understand the material better at Stark State and I also saved thousands of dollars by making this decision."
Mikailah explains that Project GRAD Akron made a big impact on her life. PGA helped her with her resumé skills, studying skills, balancing life in college, and more. She says, "PGA continued to help me even after high school graduation by providing me with scholarships, food, and other materials. This really helped me during the pandemic and I really thank them for that."
Mikailah's advice for high school students is to enjoy college! She also recommends leaving your hometown if possible. Mikailah says there are different life experiences she faced when living away from her family and those experiences helped her grow as a person. Another piece of advice, she added, is that you don't always have to stick with your major.
“I thought I was set in my major when I choose Accounting, but when I got into my core classes and realized that accounting was not for me. Therefore. I changed it to Business Information Systems and I enjoy this major a lot more than I did Accounting.”  

Congratulations Mikailah on your upcoming graduation! We wish you the very best!

It’s never too late to try something new. If you or a student you know is unsure about their career path or their college major, reach out to Project GRAD Akron for help! 
Q & A with PGA Staff Member: Matthew Futch
Q: What do you love about working at
Project GRAD Akron?
A: I find joy in helping students and families complete their FAFSA and directing them to school and community resources. I get to serve families and students who are pursuing their dreams!

Q: Why do you think PGA is important to our community?
A: It's not just important, it's essential in my opinion. The resources we have access to, the networking we provide, and the relationships we build are life-changing for our students.
Q: What do you wish more people knew about PGA?
A: I wish more people knew about the services we provide and our classroom curriculum. From a curriculum framework, we are able to provide Social Emotional learning for the students, prep them for interviews, research schools and careers for post-secondary education, as well as essay writing in efforts to apply for various scholarships. 

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Spending time with my family, traveling, and golfing. As a family, we like to hike the area metro parks. The nature realm is one of our favorites! We enjoy visiting family and Micky Mouse in Florida. There is a new trip I am excited about and that's possibly a mission trip to Africa in the next five years. 
Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
A: I played the violin as a kid at school, I was a soloist and drummer at my church as well. I have always enjoyed music!

Matthew Futch is a College and Career Advisor with Project GRAD Akron. To learn more about Matt or other PGA staff persons, please visit our website.
April is National Volunteer Month!
We recognize all those who give their time and energy to give back to our community.
How do you give back?

If you are interested in volunteering with us at Project GRAD Akron,
please contact us at info@projectgradakron.org or visit our website.
Click on the social media links to connect with Project GRAD Akron!