Despite the unprecedented circumstances, the BMPA had a productive 2020-2021 academic year, with several firsts and continued collaborations in the school district and community-at-large. We are looking forward to more opportunities to connect in person and host additional events in 2021-2022.
2020 began with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Learning at Capital University, followed soon after by BMPA’s first “Cause an Effect” fundraising event in January. Proceeds from the Chipotle fundraiser and additional donations from the community allowed the BMPA to award seven student scholarships for the annual Circle of Excellence (COE) event in the spring. BMPA would like to thank Carl McKinney, Bryan Drewry, and Jonathan Baker for their efforts in planning and presenting the COE event, as well as extend their appreciation to Obie Stillwell, our keynote speaker, and Laura/Bob Robertson-Boyd, Pam Calhoun, and Ralph Smithers for their support in making the virtual COE a success.
BMPA’s informational events and support also helped facilitate hiring of Bexley City Schools’ (BCS) first Black middle school assistant principal in 2020-2021, thanks to BMPA Executive Board members Bryan, Jonathan, Ahdra Young, and Manika Williams. Additional BCS endeavors included Bryan’s assistance in the formation of the Bexley Minority Alumni Association, BMPA involvement in BCS hiring committees (superintendent, DEI coordinator – Jonathan, Bryan, Jess Willis and Courtney Baker; Montrose principal – Jess), and Bryan’s efforts in obtaining a Bexley Education Foundation grant for diverse books for 4th and 5th graders at all three elementary schools in BCS. BMPA (Tiasha Letostak) also collaborated with Racquel Armstrong (Bexley Middle School assistant principal) in order for BCS to apply for and be awarded a $70,000 Diversifying the Education Profession (DEP) in Ohio grant from the Ohio Department of Education, which will be executed over a three-year period. As a result, the district has created a DEP committee, which includes district leadership, teachers, and community members, including a representative from BMPA (Tiasha). The grant will also allow the district to provide mentoring, professional development, and ongoing support to diverse faculty that are hired, as well as ongoing professional development for all staff that is focused on sustaining a culture of equity and inclusion.
We would also like to extend a special thank you to Jess for her BMPA representation on the BCS Anti-Racism Task Force, the DEI secondary curriculum ELA audit, and school board recommendations. Additionally, we are grateful for Ahdra’s coordination of BMPA communications, as well as her collaboration with BCS regarding trauma-informed discipline, and for Mary Cannon’s contributions in note-taking for our monthly open planning meetings. Lastly, BMPA and BCS launched a Youth Mentorship Program this past year, under the leadership and guidance of Steve Shapiro, Lisa Carter Kelley, Chris Igodan, Derrick Coles, Laura Robertson-Boyd, and Francisco Crespco.
City endeavors included regular meetings with the City of Bexley/City Council, Town Hall events, other city committees/boards, and DE&I collaboration with other Central Ohio communities. We would like to recognize Bryan and Tiffany Hunt for their work on the Citizen Review Advisory Board, which was formed in 2020, as board member and chair, respectively. We would also like to thank Cecil Gouke for his work with the Police Advisory Board, Jess’s assistance with the Bexley DEI City Council Initiative, and Courtney and Jonathan, Manika, and Bryan for their efforts in police and citizen talks with the city.
In the Spring of 2020, BMPA was fortunate to have Jonathan organize the Walk with Ahmaud community event, with support from the Mayor and the City of Bexley, which led to a 10TV interview. The Mitchell Family was also the first African American family to be featured in Bexley Living, and other minority families, like the Bakers, followed, both in Bexley Living and Columbus Parents magazine.
Events and field trips for children and families, thanks to India Keith for her efforts as community coordinator, included a BMPA Valentine’s Art Night in February, a trip to the Central Ohio Fire Museum and Learning Center in August, a BMPA Kickball Game in September, and a Fall Fun Day at the farm in October, complete with a hayride, pumpkin picking, petting zoo, and corn and sunflower mazes.
We would also like to thank Monique Lampke for her work in planning Bexley’s inaugural Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in September 2020, which included food trucks and a mariachi band. Art with Anna also hosted a free live paint along in the summer and fall, with supplies provided by BMPA for interested families. And in May 2021, BMPA hosted Bexley’s first Asian & Pacific Islander Heritage event, featuring food trucks, a Japanese Taiko Drum Concert, videos to “Meet Your Bexley Asian Neighbors,” and more. A special thank you to Akisa Fukuzawa, for leading those efforts, and BCS alumna, Julia Miracle, for her volunteer contributions.
Also in Spring 2021, Bryan coordinated a three-part Spring Financial Series, in partnership with Bexley Public Library, on the basics of developing a personal financial wellness plan. For Part 1 in March 2021, we would like to thank Dave Mallett, President and CEO of Ohio State Bank; Dr. Sylvia Jones, CEO/Owner of Divine Family Eyecare, Inc., and Bexley alumnus, Greg Miller, of Workplace Planning, for speaking on Personal Finance Basics. For Part 2 of the Spring Financial Series in April, we would like to thank Aaron Greene, Founder and CEO of In: The College Planning Experts; Stephanie Krosnosky, Bexley High School Career and College Counselor; and Marc Ziegler, President and CEO of Midwest College Planning, for presenting information and tools on College Planning 101. For Part 3 (Principles of Investment), BMPA would like to extend our gratitude to expert panelists Ric Butler, Principal at FocusCFO; Jonny Young, SVP at Morgan Stanley; and Bryan Wood, Director of Small/Mid Cap Equities at Investment Management Group at Nationwide Financial.
Most recently, BMPA also played an integral role in hosting and collaborating on Bexley’s inaugural Juneteenth event in June 2021, in partnership with the Bexley Public Library, Bexley Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, City Council, and Transit Arts. BMPA members who served on the Juneteenth Planning Committee included Manika, Courtney, Jonathan, Tiasha, and Natalie Coles. Prior to this, Manika worked with the City Council to have Juneteenth recognized in the resolution that was passed in December of 2020. BMPA also assisted with various educational events and blog posts about Juneteenth leading up to the main event in June, as well as a social media takeover of the Mayor of Bexley’s Facebook page, to spread awareness and resources on Juneteenth, its history, and its significance.
We closed out the school year with the BMPA float in the Bexley 4th of July Parade, with the Willis’ family and friends assisting with decorations and other BMPA members and community members contributions, as well as Bexley DE&I support. We are thankful for the support of everyone in the community for making all our efforts possible and successful, especially during such a challenging and unpredictable year.
We kicked off the 2021-2022 school year with our back-to-school picnic at the Jeffrey Park Memorial Shelter on August 15, with great turnout. We appreciate the commitment of the city, BCS, and community members to furthering our mission of empowering minority students to achieve their full potential.