Project RISE Hosts 25th Anniversary Celebration at Summit Art Space

banner Summit Art Space Akron


On August 18th, Project RISE hosted a special 25th Anniversary Celebration Event at the Summit Art Space in Akron. The event was well attended with around 80 people. The event included delicious refreshments from Waterloo Catering Company and a musical performance by Project RISE community partner Tracey Thomas-Shephard. Attendees were community members, collaborators and community partners, Project RISE Staff Members and also families served by Project RISE.

Project RISE (Realizing Individual Strength through Education), under the Office of Student Services, is a collaborative effort by Akron Public Schools, local shelters, and the community. The first demonstration grant was received in 1991. It is a federally funded program, facilitated by Ohio Department of Education, through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act: Education for Homeless Children and Youth Programs. The main purpose is to remove barriers to the educational process and success of students who have lost their housing due to hardship.

DMDebra Manteghi Talks About the History of Project RISE


Debra Manteghi, the District Homeless Liaison for Akron Public Schools and Project RISE Program Manager, has been in her position for 18 years. Over the course of her time with Project RISE, Ms. Manteghi has developed the Program into a three-tiered operation.




The first tier includes legal interpretation and implementation of McKinney-Vento Law in the district and community. The second tier consists of educational and enrichment programs for students and parents. Such programs include the after school tutoring program, the PACT (Performing Arts Can Teach) Program and the Love & Learn Doll Project, to name a few. The third tier of the organization is the Social services to help the families or youth identify and locate needed resources to improve the quality of their life while going through homelessness, especially with the use of Akron Street Card and Akron Resource Directory.


pact_picPACT (Performing Arts Can Teach) Program


At the 25th Anniversary Event, Ms. Manteghi spoke about the beginning of her journey with Project RISE and how the program has developed over the years. She spoke highly of Project RISE Staff Members and Community Partners, without whom the program would not function as smoothly.


TraceyThomas-ShephardTracey Thomas-Shephard of ACAMP (Akron Center for Art & Music Performace)


Other speakers at the event included Community Partners: Tracey Thomas-Shephard of ACAMP (Akron Center for Art & Music Performace), Local Playwright, Tyron Hoisten, Dennis O’Connell of Magical Theatre Company, Dr. Baomei Zhao of the University of Akron, Chuck Bell of Children and Books, Ranger Pamela Machuga of Cuyahoga Valley National Parks and Shelter Liaisons Lesley Anderson and Rebecca Cool. Several Project RISE Staff Members also shared their memories of and gratefulness to the program.


TyronHoistenTyron Hoisten Local Playwright


Attendees enjoyed hearing the different accounts of what Project RISE means to each speaker and how they have grown from working with the families. Ranger Pamela Machuga even said that out of all the groups they work with, Project RISE is her favorite group because of the collaborative and helpful spirit of the staff and the wonderful students and families she has met along the way. Dennis O’Connell from the Magical Theatre Company said that during the theatre workshops he provided at some of the shelters this summer, he always felt like he gained more than he gave.


headshots_dennis1Dennis O’Connell from the Magical Theatre Company


Project RISE Staff Member and APS teacher, Daniel Hughes, commented that he was grateful to be part of the summer program this year in order to build special relationships with the families he worked with at Salvation Army. He said: “Working with students through Project RISE is special because we are able to build relationships with them and get to know them better as people. It is different than what we are able to do at the school level.”




Before and after the speakers, participants were invited to enjoy refreshments, an activities table and several photo displays from throughout the years. The displays included a photo display from the 2016 Summer Program, Artwork from the 2016 summer program, photo displays from the RISE-ing Stars Exhibit in 2011 and also a display from the Katrina Exhibit of 2006. Barb Johnson, Project RISE Staff Member and Coordinator of the Love and Learn Doll Project hosted a display table with information about the Doll Project.


BarbJohnsonBarb Johnson, Project RISE Staff Member and Coordinator of the Love and Learn Doll Project


The tables were decorated with beautiful vases of flowers which speakers and attendees were invited to take with them as they left. The flower vases included wooden butterfly inserts that were artfully designed by residents of the Safe Landing Girls Shelter during a summer field trip. Journals and notebooks that had been created by Project RISE Staff Members over the years were also displayed on the tables for attendees to browse.




Project RISE would like to thank everyone who took the time to attend the special event and pay their regards to the program. It was truly a special evening.




During the 2015-2016 school year, over 1,850 students and youth were identified and served. For more information on Project RISE and how you can help, please contact Debra Manteghi at 330-761-2969 or  or go to:



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