Straight Path aims to cultivate young minds through mentorship

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MASSILLON – Working with youngsters on the soccer field for nearly two decades, Edwin Cleveland has provided them with knowledge about the game: how to tackle, read their opponents and drive into the end zone.

But he knew the players needed more. They needed help off the field.

He noticed that they had suffered trauma. Some struggled with mental health issues. Some had no food in the fridge and others just needed someone there when they got home.

Cleveland wanted to get more involved and help these young people through life.

He began to learn how he could help. He learned more about mental health and mentoring. He became a certified life coach.

Now Cleveland is taking action to help children in the community through The Straight Path program.

What is the Straight Path program?

The non-profit Straight Path program aims to create positive change by providing life skills, educational and technical training.

Last month, Cleveland opened the Straight Path Program Community Development Center at 325 Third St. NE. In its early days, the center offered a variety of services for boys and girls ages 10 to 18, as well as day programs for adults.

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From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., adults can get help with their resume and cover letter and develop their life skills. They can use the computer lab to search for jobs.

“We want to help them make good decisions,” said Cleveland, executive director and adult program manager. “We can see how bad decisions have hampered lives.”

The center also offers private lessons, a studio equipped with video recording and editing equipment, and sports training. Cleveland has also brought in a licensed therapist to help assess students who may need services they cannot provide.

“We occupy them,” explained assistant manager Corey Redvine.

Corey Redvine, far right, works with school-aged kids on basketball skills at the Straight Path Center in Massillon.

Redvine, who has hosted a 4th of July basketball tournament at Shriver Park for 12 years that draws hundreds of participants, said teaching basketball skills is a way to develop a relationship with kids.

From 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, the boys are invited to take advantage of the mentorship program which includes tutoring and exercise.

Before entering the field, participants spend time doing their homework and studying with licensed certified tutor Robin Eaves. Children know Eaves because he substitutes in local schools.

“Our teachers are overwhelmed,” adds Eaves. “They can’t give a student an hour of help (during class). That’s where we come in.”

All programs offered by Straight Path Center are free.

“It’s huge,” Cleveland said. “We need these things in our community. The community is supposed to take care of you.”

Helping children succeed in school from an early age will allow them to see success as they age, he said, adding that good grades lead to college scholarships.

In the studio, attendees can focus on sound and audio, video, podcasts and more.

They provide students with training in telecommunications. Redvine said it’s a benefit for kids who want to join Washington High School’s award-winning telecommunications program.

A student of the program, Redvine said he learned a lot about telecommunications and was able to get jobs because of the skills he learned, including making highlight tapes.

Washington High School freshman Joseph Kolisar enjoys the studio.

The 15-year-old was collecting footage during a recent basketball practice.

He will use video to learn slow motion editing to create a 30 second commercial.

“You have to time things well,” he said.

Kolisar wants to join the high school telecommunications class, as well as pursue a career in media arts and production.

The free training and use of the studio is a big win, he said, adding that finding an affordable program is nearly impossible.

“I love sports editing,” he said. “I could make it my job”

A confident girl will achieve her goals

Ke’Aunte Harris, founder of BeYoutiful Weirdo, will mentor girls ages 10-15 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The girls’ and boys’ programs take place on different days.

Harris has big plans for the summer, including a confidence camp for girls.

During camp, Harris will help build participants’ confidence and teach them about self-awareness.

“I learned that when you build trust, they will achieve their goals,” she said. “I want them to achieve their goals.”

The new mother also wants to help other mothers. She started a Mommy and Me support group dubbed Crown Me King L after her 9-month-old son, LaBryant.

“I want to share our journey as moms,” Harris explained.

The group will meet on Friday. Moms can bring their children and participate in different activities and group discussions.

The group will also be a source for everyone where they can share clothes, toys and other baby essentials.

Corey Redvine, standing, works with Washington High School freshman Joseph Kolisar on editing a video in the center's media room.  The center has a studio with video and audio equipment as well as a podcast studio.

Empower the community

Cleveland has big plans for the organization.

He is asking for grants to help fund the program, as well as finding sponsors.

Our Caring Hands home care, which is housed in the same building, and Cleveland-based Photographer’s Eye and Insomniactic Mentality have sponsored programs.

“We’re looking for people to partner with,” Cleveland said.

With additional funding, he hopes to expand services to six days a week, including a camp on Saturdays.

“We want to operate in the community in collaboration with parents,” he explained. “For parents on the second team, we’re here until 9 p.m. Kids without proper supervision, you know things can happen.”

But Straight Path will not serve as a babysitter, but rather as a place where children will learn and grow.

“We want to work as a proactive facility,” Eaves said. “We want to help children, encourage them to prepare and then learn skills and decision-making abilities. We don’t want them to become at risk.”

Cleveland implements eight-week programs for children. Upon completion of the program, attendees will be eligible for a basketball game or a trip to Cedar Point.

“Kids from low-income homes might not have had the chance to go to Six Flags or Cedar Point,” he said. “If we step in and open the door to that, it will bring them happiness to do what their peers are doing.”

Eaves said the program is meant to help build loyalty with themselves, as well as their community.

“Over a period of five to ten years, our program can have a big impact on the community,” he said. “We can help socially, economically and at all levels.”

Cleveland hopes to meet the needs of the Massillon community and then begin to branch out.

“If we only change one person here and then we change three at school, it snowballs,” he said.

To learn more about the Straight Path Center, visit straightpathprogram.org.

Contact Amy at 330-775-1135 or [email protected]

ON Twitter: @aknappINDE

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