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High School Performance Project: "We Belong"; Reverse Raffle At Forbes House

Our first event for the evening of March 11th was a program at Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy on West 46th Street in Cleveland which was a high school performance project IMG_8874titled "We Belong" put together with the help of the Cleveland Public Theatre.

"We Belong" evolved around the experiences of 11 students who had immigrated to the United States from such countries as Vietnam, Iraq, El Salvador, Sudan, Dominican Republic, and Uganda. It contained testimonials and skits about making friends, family relations, why they came to the United States, and what is was like actually being here. Although there were no songs, Ms. Chris Seifert, Program Manager and Co-Director, and Mr. Adam Seeholzer, Co-Director, choreographed it like it was a big musical number with lots of creative movement.

Before the show started, there were several speakers including Ms. Marisol Burgos, Principal at Thomas Jefferson, who told us that most of the students who participated in this exercise have been in IMG_8876the United States for only a year or less and this was their way of saying that we equal now in America.

Mr. Raymond Bobgan, Executive Director at the Cleveland Public Theatre, said that he was "blown away" by the magic at Thomas Jefferson when he first came here. He also said that the students were blessed by the support of the faculty and staff of Thomas Jefferson as well as Mr. Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Mr. Bobgan said that it was the goal of his organization to actually be the public theatre of the people of Cleveland and all of its ethnicities. He concluded by introducing Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman who had encouraged him to visit Thomas Jefferson because he thought Mr. Bobgan had the potential to put his talents to work here and produce something wonderful.

IMG_8878Councilman Cimperman thanked all of the families who had students there at Thomas Jefferson because "you make the city better and our lives brighter." He noted that Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy was a place where students from 26 different nations (and speaking 20 different languages) came together to create "a magical place" where "they get all of the love that they deserve."

The last speaker was Ms. Chris Seibert of the Cleveland Public Theatre who (along with Mr. Adam Seeholzer) had worked so hard to help the students put on this program. She thanked everyone for their cooperation. Afterwards, deserved bouquets of flower were given to all involved in the project.

As Ms. Seifert and Mr. Seeholzer wrote in the program notes the goal of this project was to "enhance cross-cultural understanding among a diverse group of international teens and their new Cleveland sharing stories because where there is understanding, we experience a sense of connectedness, empathy and respect...People need to know about Thomas Jefferson International IMG_8894Newcomers Academy. People need to know about what has been happening at this school and this city. We, the community that is Cleveland, we are welcoming children...adults...families. We are welcoming families from around the globe. We are welcoming families in need of an opportunity, understanding, openness and home..."

As one of the students said during the performance, if a person watching this program believes that we have no place, "it is because you forgot that we belong to each other."

We left very soon after "We Belong" concluded because we had to drive to LaMalfa Party Center in Mentor to attend the Painesville Rotary Reverse Raffle.

Each year the Painesville Rotary puts on this event and directs the benefits towards their children's projects and a worthy local organization. In 2016 the organization's chosen was Forbes House which is a IMG_8913non-profit domestic violence shelter in Lake County. It's website describes Forbes House as "the first and only safe haven in Lake County with services specific to the needs of all domestic violence victims." It has been in existence for 30 years and we expressed our best wishes about its future to Ms. NatalieTomazic, its executive assistant director.

We also thanked Mr. Stu Lucker and Ms. Eileen Cicero, President and Secretary of the Painesville Rotary, for all of their hard work in putting on this annual event. We spoke to a man who has come to it for many years now who told us that the turnout keeps getting bigger each year. On this particular evening, it was estimated that 225 people were in attendance.

We bought a ticket for the raffle and several ones for the silent auction that was also taking place and gave them to some friends of ours because our own office and home are now quite full and we IMG_8910simply do not have the space to win anymore prizes. We spent the next several hours munching a wide selection of salads and visiting with local people that we know like Rev. Vanessa Clark of the St. James Episcopal Church; Ms. Mary Jo Miller, owner of Bella Donna Salon and Spa; Mr. John T. Shepard, Superintendent of the Painesville Schools; Mr. David Polakowski, Executive Director of the Downtown Painesville Organization; Ms. Linda Reed, Executive Director of the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce; and Mr. Kevin Malecek, Lake County IMG_8912Commissioner. One person that we met was Ms. Amy Mango, who years ago when her maiden name was Overton before she was married, used to work at Margaret W. Wong and Associates assisting Ms. Stacy Cozart. Ms. Mango is now a project manager at Sherwin-Williams and she instructed us to give Ms. Wong, and anyone at our office who might remember her, a hearty hello.

Written by:

Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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