Category Archives: Education

What Is Akron’s Urban Tree Canopy, and How Does it Grow?

An Introduction to Plans and Progress

Words by Sophie Franchi

It’s Spring in the Midwest now, so most of the trees lining the streets of Akron are in full bloom. The wind is brisk, and any ray of sunshine is a welcome sight. But remember for a moment what it feels like to walk to your local coffee shop or convenience store in mid-August under the blazing sun, and how welcome the shade of a big tree along the path can feel when the sidewalk is baking.

We all know that 90 percent humidity on a 90-degree day feels awful, but it’s actually dangerous as well. According to the National Weather Service, “the heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.” As the humidity increases, the body’s ability to perspire to cool down decreases, which can lead to heat disorders like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, trees and vegetation provide shade that can lower surface temperatures by 20 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The evapotranspiration process of trees and other vegetation, especially when combined with shading, can help reduce summer temperatures by two to nine degrees Fahrenheit, which can be enough to bring the heat index down into a safer zone for people to be outside.

Reducing the heat index is just one of many benefits that trees provide. Trees also improve air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy use. They reduce erosion and pavement maintenance. They enhance stormwater management and improve water quality. They provide wildlife habitats and reduce noise. They improve public health by reducing asthma rates and decreasing UV-8 exposure. They also increase property values.

Plus, trees look a lot nicer than empty lots and tree lawns surrounded by concrete and asphalt. Imagine fall in the Midwest without a blazing canopy of yellows, oranges, and reds, or spring without the blossoming cherry or budding maple! For many residential areas in Akron where the UTC is lacking, that is the unfortunate reality. Neighborhoods with fewer trees have higher rates of asthma, more air pollution, higher surface temperatures, more stormwater runoff leading to flooding and erosion, lower property values, and higher rates of crime.

The Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) in Akron, Ohio became an area of focus for the greater Akron community in November of 2013, when Plan-It Geo was commissioned to perform “An Assessment of Urban Tree Canopy in Akron, Ohio” for the City of Akron, Akron Engineering Bureau, Akron Parks Maintenance Division, and GreenPrint Akron. Funding for the study was provided by the USDA Forest Service through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Project Clean Lake grant. This project presented data on the extent of Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) across the City of Akron, provided analysis of Possible Planting Areas (PPA) and areas unsuitable for planting, detailed the ecosystem services provided by Akron’s UTC, and recommended objectives and goals for support and facilitation of future tree planting and canopy preservation.

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“A Collaborative Backbone of Support”

How Summit Recovery Hub RCO is bridging the gaps in the path to recovery

Words by Sophie Franchi

“We’re trying not to wait until someone is at the severe level of need for their mental health or substance use issue…”

Summit Recovery Hub RCO

Why don’t they just get help?

This question often runs through the hearts and minds of friends and relatives of people suffering from substance abuse and mental health disorders. The truth is, it’s not that easy. Recovery looks different for different people, and the support systems needed to recover are not always accessible. Sometimes there are major gaps in the supports available to people seeking a pathway to recovery. Sometimes people have a difficult time finding any path at all.

Summit Recovery Hub RCO is working to bridge some of those gaps for our community.

“We really want this to be a collaborative backbone of support to help,” says China Darrington, Board President of Summit Recovery Hub. “No one can do the work for you, but we can make sure you’re not alone and that you have someone who knows a little something about helping someone navigate that process of change.”

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ANNUAL MEETING & SCHOLARSHIP LUNCHEON

The Akron Urban League (AUL) is holding its annual meeting and scholarship luncheon on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, commencing at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton Akron/Fairlawn hotel.   The program will be segmented into two parts: awarding scholarships to local graduating high school seniors and a 2021 economic and programmatic retrospective.

During the scholarship portion of the event, the AUL will award 26 scholarships to selected Summit County high school seniors to further their education. Specifically, five students will receive full-tuition scholarships from The University of Akron, Kent State University, and Stark State College. All Summit County high school 2022 graduating seniors could apply for a scholarship. Finalists were selected based on an essay, their academic record, leadership skills, community service activities, and financial need.

The annual meeting portion will contain a 2021 annual review, including a program presentation and unaudited consolidated financial statements. In May 2022, the annual report data will be available on the organizations’ website, www.akronurbanleague.org.  The AUL will also provide a hard copy of its 2021 annual report to interested parties free of charge, on request through their website at https://www.akronurbanleague.org/contact-us/.     

“By awarding these Summit County seniors with a scholarship from our program, we are enabling them to concentrate on education. We hope that this financial assistance will allow recipients to be one step closer to achieving their goal of graduating from college. Additionally, we hope that it will inspire the recipients to one day give back to the community,” says Teresa R. LeGrair, President & CEO, Akron Urban League.

Interested sponsors may contact Nicole Curet, Director of Fund Development at ncuret@akronurbanleague.org.

Contact: Alissa Shively, Akron Urban League

Phone: 234-542-4174

National Random Acts of Kindness Day

“Be Kind 330” Campaign Kickoff Act of Kindness From GOJO to APS Kicks Off “Be Kind 330”

Akron Public Schools (APS)
Thursday, February 17, 2022 – National Random Acts of Kindness Day

On this National Random Acts of Kindness Day, Akron Public Schools (APS) is the grateful recipient of a wonderful act of kindness. GOJO, the manufacturers of PURELL® hand sanitizer, has made a generous donation of 20,000 bottles of Purell® to APS as a part of the kickoff of Be Kind 330 in Akron. Be Kind 330 is part of the Kindland movement sweeping across Northeast Ohio. The only thing GOJO asks in return is for the faculty, students and staff to pay this act of kindness forward as we spread the Be Kind 330 message throughout Kindland.

“We are proud to make the first official act of kindness by donating Purell® products to help Akron Public Schools staff and students stay healthy and well,” said Carey Jaros, President and CEO, GOJO Industries. “We hope others will join us in supporting the Be Kind 330 program.”

GOJO’s act of kindness comes as Akron Public Schools joins other Northeast Ohio schools, businesses and organizations by sharing the Be Kind 330 message and starting conversations about kindness, caring, respect and generosity of spirit.

Students at Robinson CLC will be the first students who receive PURELL® after their Be Kind 330 kick-off assembly. Students will be involved in group discussions, video elements and hands-on activities that lead to their taking a pledge to stick together and be kind. All other schools will follow with events unique to each school as they, too, take the pledge.

Kindland was begun by the Values-in-Action (VIA) Foundation in Mayfield, Ohio. VIA has provided the district with optional instructional materials for its use in promoting the kindness-encouraging project throughout its schools and APS families. Students, teachers, parents, caregivers and grandparents are also encouraged to document everyday acts of kindness using the Just Be Kind App at JustBeKindApp.com.

“With Be Kind 330, we want to establish a community culture where individuals recognize and celebrate the kindness around us and create an overall pay-it-forward mentality that results in a more kind, caring and respectful community for everyone,” said Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack.

Kindland is presented by Values-In-Action Foundation, a non-profit organization that empowers students and adults to build communities of kindness, caring and respect through programs that teach, promote and provide skills and tools to enable individuals to make positive, values-based decisions every day. Since its founding as Project Love in 1994, Values-in-Action (VIA) has trained more than 1.1 million students to lead with values. 

For additional information about Kindland, call 440.463.6205; or visit BeKindland.com.

For information about Be Kind 330, contact Mark Williamson, Akron Public Schools, 330.761.2930 or maw45602@apslearns.org. #BeKind330

A tradition continues with teaching, learning and kindness (Ashley Jones – Smithberger Farms)

2021-2022 School Year (In-Person Learning) Story written by Darla Cutright for APS

Smithberger Farms of Randolph, Ohio is a fourth-generation family farm beginning in the 1950s. David & Tina Smithberger’s daughter Ashley Jones is a fifth-grade teacher within Akron Public Schools (Portage Path CLC). Ashley wanted to find opportunities to bring agricultural experiences to the urban school and students. While the district was 100% remote during the 2020-2021 school year, the Smithberger family donated 180 mini pumpkins to the school’s drive-thru fall festival. This year, Mrs. Jones’ classroom watched videos about why pumpkins are orange and why we decorate them at Halloween. They also enjoyed reading the book, How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?

            The Smithberger’s shared the humbling experience of gifting the students with a pumpkin and the joy that the small gesture brought to the school and community. This year, the Smithberger family farm doubled their pumpkin seeds in hopes of donating more mini pumpkins to the school drive thru event. On October 21st, the family donated over 200 mini pumpkins to the school’s fall harvest event. This partnership continues to receive positive feedback from the school community and hopes to grow in the years to come. “It is such an amazing opportunity to bring joy to the students at my school through a small piece of our farm”, said Ashley Jones.

2020-2021 School Year (Remote)

Gratitude is often a focus of classroom writing assignments during the month of November, but also something we think about as we celebrate Thanksgiving. With all the changes in our lives this year, it may be easier to focus on what we are missing rather than what we have. Fifth grade teacher Ashley Jones started focusing on gratitude a year ago and has tried to pass it on to her students. “I donated 180 mini pumpkins to the school,” said Mrs. Jones.

            Last October, Mrs. Jones decorated her classroom (when we were actually in classrooms) with multi-colored ears of corn and corn stalks, as well as pumpkins, all grown on her family’s farm. The Smithberger farm in Randolph has been in Mrs. Jones’ family for 70 years. Her family has cows and pigs, as well as produce such as corn, hay, and pumpkins, including what Mrs. Jones brought to decorate her class. “We grow them every year, all sorts.

Last year at the end of October, she raffled off the decorations for students to take home, not sure if any of the students would be interested. But all the decorations were a big hit. When Mrs. Jones saw how much the students enjoyed the decorations as well as the pumpkins, she decided to set a goal to plant enough mini pumpkins this year so that every student in her class could take one home. “I purposely planted more mini pumpkins last spring in hopes of having enough for my class.”

            Mrs. Jones enjoys sharing information about her family farm with her students. As they study and learn about agriculture, pollination, and the differences in urban, suburban, and rural communities, their teacher makes the connection to her real-life situation. “It’s hard for my students to realize that crops that we grow, raise and sell, are only a half-hour away,” said Mrs. Jones.  Some students noticed different warts or coloring on their pumpkins and wondered about it; this was a great opportunity to research the cross-pollination that had occurred with the gourds that were growing nearby.

            Mrs. Jones also discussed the process of growing the pumpkins, beginning with planting the seeds.  When it was time to harvest them, the whole family helped. “It took a couple of hours (to pick them). You have to cut them one by one so you don’t break their stems,“ said Mrs. Jones.

Mrs. Jones’ father helped wash the pumpkins after harvesting them, and he and her husband helped load them into her vehicle to bring them to Portage Path. Mrs. Jones passed them out to students who attended the October Family International Storytelling Night at Portage Path CLC. She also brought six big pumpkins for decoration that she shared with others at the end of the night. “Seeing the reactions on the kids’ faces was a really cool experience,” she said. “It was something small. I really hope it made a difference and brightened someone’s day,” said Mrs. Jones. She’s already planning to plant enough pumpkins next year to have enough for every student in the school.

Thanks, Mrs. Jones. Portage Path CLC is grateful for you.