February 25, 2022
A Note from our Executive Director
Dear Friends,
If you are like me, you are probably thinking that this year is moving pretty fast! So much is going on in the world that time is definitely not standing still and neither are we at Project GRAD Akron! When you are dealing with the lives of young people, you know that "with all deliberate speed" often leaves many people behind and it can impact generations. It is great when you work with people who "get it" and who move with a sense of urgency because they understand that lives are depending upon action.

You often hear us recite our motto that "Graduation Really Achieves Dreams." At Project GRAD Akron, we begin our work with the end in mind. Student success requires strategic programs and strong supporters (board, staff, volunteers, donors, parents/guardians, community stakeholders, believers, and of course, students)! At every phase, we are always setting the stage for success! I continue to be proud of our team members who understand that our work can and does produce positive generational changes! Each time you read our e-newsletter, I hope you realize how your support is impacting student success! We will continue to share stories with you and hope that you see in all the faces and stories, that Graduation Really Achieves Dreams!

As you reflect on Black History month, please take the time to read this famous poem by the late Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the 6th President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. If you know any graduate of Morehouse College, you will often hear them discuss Dr. Mays and his many words of wisdom, including the following poem:
"I Have Only Just a Minute"

I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.

Thankful to PGA's Board of Directors

I hope that you have been enjoying reading our "Thankful" section in each e-newsletter edition. Wherever I go, people often remark that 'You really have a great Board!" I agree! PGA Board members are awesome! They genuinely believe in our mission! They are willing to do whatever it takes to support our staff and team members in fulfilling our mission of supporting students and families in the Akron Public Schools! In addition to their governance responsibilities, they often go above and beyond the call of duty!

Our Board generously gives of their time, their talent, and their treasure to support Project GRAD Akron. Here are some of the highlights: We currently have 25 Board members (not counting the Executive Director). We have 100% Board participation in Board giving! In addition to unrestricted and scholarship contributions, they also support our fundraisers. We have great attendance and participation at Board meetings. This fiscal year, Board members have a 93% attendance rate, which is slightly higher than last fiscal year's 92% attendance rate! Board members take the lead on standing committees as well as special committees and fundraisers! Board members serve as GRAD Mentors, presenters for programs, and are ambassadors for our organization. They reach out to their family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers, to support our work!

As I think about the COVID-19 pandemic and the things we have not been able to do with our Board, I miss the in-person events. Since 2020, we have held our two major fundraisers, March GRADness and Achieving Dreams, virtually! Although they were great fun and successful, I missed seeing the Board members dressing up at Achieving Dreams or goofing off in the photo booth or playing games at March GRADness! We have also missed taking our annual group photograph of Board members to include in our various publications!

In my sixteen plus (16 +) years as Executive Director of Project GRAD Akron, I can truthfully say that I have always been blessed with excellent Board members! The current and past Board Presidents, officers, and members have been thoughtful, thorough, and tenacious! Thank you for your service and advocacy for our organization! It is appreciated!


Jacqueline "Jackie" Silas-Butler, Esq.
Executive Director
A Moment with PGA Scholar, London Green!
Our PGA Scholar highlight this month is London Green! London is a Buchtel High School alum and graduated in 2019! Now, she is a Junior at Kent State University and majors in Journalism. Additionally, she interns at Akron Life Magazine and works at Whole Foods. She plans to live and study in New York City this summer.

London enjoys reading and writing. She loves to write about health and wellness, self-care, and Black culture. When it comes to reading, she enjoys reading about the history of Fashion Journalism, poetry, self-help books, and more. London will read almost anything - mysteries, fiction, and nonfiction. She mentioned that she has been trying to find more books authored by Black men and women.

We asked London, "How do you believe Project GRAD Akron impacted your life?" She answered, "Project GRAD Akron is the reason that I am in college today. Because of their financial generosity, I am able to pay for college expenses. Through the PGA program, I learned about all of these scholarships that were opened to incoming college students with the same major as mine. I didn't realize how much financial assistance was out there. The PGA staff members helped me with applications, edited my essays, assisted me with FASFA, and encouraged me when I felt like giving up. Without their dedication and support, I would not be finishing out my junior year of college and preparing for my senior year."

If London were to give advice to high school students today, she would say, "Whatever you decide to do after high school, make sure that decision is your own and nobody else's. You can do whatever you want in life if you believe in yourself and don't give up. Remember to network, research new opportunities, and ask for help when needed."

We wish London the very best as she pursues her college degree and her life's ambitions!
Q & A with Board President: Martin H. Belsky, Esq.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about being President of the Board so far? 
A: I enjoy getting to know the members of the Board and the staff better and especially working with Jackie Silas-Butler. Also, I feel that I am really contributing to the work and success of Project GRAD Akron.

Q: What is the long-term vision for PGA? 
A: I don’t want to repeat the formal vision statement but my belief is that Project GRAD Akron serves students and the School District in preparing our clients for the real world with the skills and incentives to succeed. As a secondary aspect, PGA is the connector to the wider community of the need to support our public school system to provide the services that students and faculty need.
Q: What do you wish people knew about Project GRAD Akron? 
A: Project GRAD Akron is a service-based organization that secures resources – gifts, grants, government funding – to work with students starting from pre-school through high school. Dollars invested in the work of PGA goes to these services and thus to the successful future of our community. Educated and employable citizens make the difference for a civil society.

Q: How can people get involved or support PGA? 
A: We need money, of course, so donations help. Participation in our events – like March GRADness and Achieving Dreams – also helps us to spread the word about how we work and how we serve. We need GRAD mentors for our students, volunteers for our committees, and supporters in the community. 

Q: What is your involvement with the DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) training?
A: I had the opportunity to put together a program for Project GRAD Akron board members and staff about the legal issues involved in securing diversity, equity and inclusion. Participants asked important questions about limits on what they can do and say and how we can achieve DEI goals with a changing and not always progressive legal and administrative environment. The other speakers give programs from their perspectives and together I think we were able to explore the need for, the problems with, and the methods to achieve societal DEI and how Project GRAD Akron and its members [Board and staff] can help.
Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
A: When I was in high school in Philadelphia, I was on the Central High School City Wide champion Ping Pong Team and got a varsity letter in that sport. The insignia looked like a Tennis Varsity Letter. People were impressed that I was a varsity tennis player. I decided not to tell anyone what the letter was really for. It got me some dates and some street cred.

To learn more about Marty and other Board members, please visit our website.
It's Time for March GRADness!
Project GRAD Akron's 8th Annual March GRADness, a spring fundraiser to benefit our organization’s programs, services, and scholarships, will be held on Monday, April 4, 2022. This "Happy Hour" type event features a great deal of fun, networking opportunities, delicious food stations, raffles, games with prizes, beverages, and an opportunity for you to support a great organization helping young people! 
Thank you to our Ultimate Champion Sponsor, The University of Akron!

Date: Monday, April 4, 2022
Location: Greystone Hall, Akron, OH
Time: 4:00 - 7:30 PM
Click on the social media links to connect with Project GRAD Akron!