Teen Refugee Program Wins Civic Pitch

Karson Baldwin '21 and Israel Kambomba hope to build buddy relationships among refugee and non-refugee students. They won the civic pitch contest at Accelerate: Citizens Make Change, presented by Cleveland Leadership Center and will receive $5,000 to help bring the civic vision to reality. They, along with Kennon Walton '20 and Tony Peng '20 were the only high school students to reach semifinalist status in the competition.

Karson, a US sophomore, and Israel, who moved to Cleveland from the Congo and is a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy (whose student body is comprised of refugees and immigrants from over 40 countries), want to expand a pilot program Karson created that helps address challenges of integration. The title of their pitch, Onè Respè, comes from a Haitian Creole expression of welcome that means “honor and respect.” Israel said refugees find it difficult to create new friendships. They hope to help others create the kind of friendship they have formed.

Karson met Israel while volunteering at the school. The two became fast friends which spurred the idea for a partnership program between the two schools to have the students talk, play, create and eat together, as they share their lives. They believe these friendships are the best way to promote honor and respect for immigrants and refugees.

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    • Event Co-Chair Ralph Della Ratta, president of Citizens Bank, Ohio; Karson Baldwin; Cecilia Render, executive director of the Nordson Corporation Foundation; Israel Kambomba; and event Co-Chair Ira Kaplan, CLC board chair and executive chairman of Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan and Aronoff, LLP

    • Kennon Walton and Tony Peng presented a pitch for Feed CLE, a program they created to collect leftover foodstuffs from local restaurants to help those struggling to feed their families.

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University School serves 870 boys in Junior Kindergarten to grade 12 on two campuses in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. The School’s mission is to inspire boys of promise to become young men of character who lead and serve. Dedicated faculty, rigorous curriculum, and experiential programs foster intellectual, physical, creative, and moral excellence.