What a year 2020 has been! After a banner Centennial Year, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of COVID-19 – the year that has greatly impacted, changed and transformed every life on the planet. From wearing masks to social distancing, this pandemic has definitely challenged us all.
In spite of this pandemic, the ’Row is still alive and moving forward with great pride, promise and expectation! Our Withrow students are poised for greatness – demonstrating their academic talent from within. Last spring, we graduated 179 of our 180 in-house class of 2020 seniors for an overall four-year graduation rate of nearly 85% for the cohort class of 2020 (up from 73.3% from the previous cohort class of 2019). Our improved graduation rate is a direct reflection of the hard work and tireless dedication of our Withrow faculty and staff – ensuring our students graduate on time.
The Withrow Class of 2020 will be remembered as a very special class in the hearts and minds of this city, state, nation and world! They will be forever known as the class of hope, endurance, perseverance and resolve. Missing out on their traditional prom, bridge walk and graduation events was most assuredly unimaginable – bringing tears and disappointment to many of our seniors. The district, however, allowed us to celebrate our seniors with a drive-through graduation ceremony, which was a huge success! Our 2020 grads were able to receive their diplomas on Withrow’s campus as they snaked through campus with their families in cars, suvs, party buses, fire trucks and police cars – a celebration they will remember for a lifetime!
Although this COVID-19 pandemic has been the primary focus of the nation and world, we must shift our focus and see this year and the next 100 years with 20/20 vision!
Academic Learning in the COVID-19 Era
The academic challenges that have been created as a result of COVID-19 have caused all of our Withrow 7th–12th grade students to start the year working remotely from home. Cincinnati Public Schools has provided every K–12 student a laptop, as well as negotiated with Cincinnati Bell to provide free wifi access to every student in the district. As many of you have experienced with your own families, loved ones and/or friends, teaching and students grasping new concepts remotely has created its own set of challenges. But our Withrow Tigers are “Embracing the Challenge!”
After much deliberation and input from parents, students and the CPS Community, CPS currently has chosen for our students to return to face-to-face learning with a 1-2-2 Model – where all students in the district will learn remotely from home on Mondays and then return to school for face-to-face learning either Tuesday/Wednesday (A Group) or Thursday/Friday (B Group). The week of October 12 began our students’ first return to school. Our focus is that we accelerate student learning while addressing any unfinished learning with precision and mastery of critical work.
Faculty, staff and student safety has also been our priority to ensure a safe return to school. Classrooms have been reduced to a room capacity of only 15 students (honoring 6 feet social distancing guidelines) and have been equipped with essential cleaning and hand sanitizing supplies. All staff and students are also required to wear masks at all times and maintain 6 feet social distancing when entering the building or transitioning through the hallways, to thoroughly wash their hands and to hand sanitize often.
Academic News – High School of Business
Our High School of Business is Leveling Up! Leveling up means more than making money or getting new clients; it means completing tasks that will ultimately help one’s business grow.
Our business students have been participating in an international business club called DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America). DECA prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Most recently, Withrow held a virtual DECA-sponsored event featuring guest speaker Al Riddick, who is founder and president of Game Time Budgeting, LLC – an award-winning financial fitness company that assists its clients in developing behaviors that improve their short- and long-term financial outcomes. Mr. Riddick spent quality time speaking virtually with all of our High School of Business students – inspiring them to re-evaluate how they think about money and their finances. Mr. Riddick often says he strongly believes in giving every dollar that flows through his household an assignment. He encouraged our Withrow students to do the same. Additionally, DECA sponsors student enterprise across America. As a result, our Withrow Business Students taking marketing and finance run a non-food item vending machine Spirit Box as a mini business.
Engineering and Robotics Competition
We continue to grow Withrow’s engineering pathway with another cohort of students excited about engineering and technology. Last year we worked on a range of skills including learning the Python coding language, using the engineering design process to solve real world problems, and working on architectural design and computer graphics.
The highlight of the year was our school’s robotics team. We competed in a regional competition hosted by the University of Cincinnati where students had to design a warehouse and an autonomous robot to process items for shipping. The competition included a presentation and engineering notebook where teams documented their designs and progress. Withrow sent five teams to the competition and won a total of 10 awards! Our teams won First Place Overall, Best Robot Design, the Innovation Award, and a number of other awards for their warehouse designs and presentations.
We are so proud of our students’ incredible work and are so excited for their futures. The graduating group of seniors from our engineering class of 2020 will continue their passion for STEM. Some of their future majors include mechanical engineering, information technology, aviation systems and maintenance, mechanical engineering technology, and biomedical engineering.
1st Place Overall Team
Best Engineering Notebook Innovation Award
1st Place – Project Presentation
1st Place – Robotic Function
1st Place – Floor Design
2nd Place – Project Presentation
2nd Place – Robotic Function
3rd Place – Project Presentation
3rd Place – Robotic Function
3rd Place – Floor Design
Withrow High School Multiple Disabilities Units
Twenty-four students make up the three High School Multiple Disabilities Units at Withrow University High School. These students have the most severe educational needs. These students demonstrate daily that they do not let their disabilities define who they are. The activities and programs they are all involved in prove that they are always striving to build the skills they need for post-secondary goals. Unfortunately, at this time all of these programs are on hold due to COVID-19. However, we will continue practicing these skills within our classroom.
ViaQuest – ViaQuest is an agency that collaborates with Withrow and other area high schools to help students develop work skills necessary for community employment. The volunteer opportunities introduce students to all aspects of working while preparing them for life after high school. The junior and senior students during the 2019-2020 school year volunteered twice per week at Matthew 25 Ministries and Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. We are excited for our future volunteer opportunities in in the community.
River REACH Program – The River REACH program is a floating classroom program that connects schools in Greater Cincinnati to the Ohio River through exciting voyages of science and discovery! While on-board, students tested water quality using the same methods and equipment as scientists who monitor and protect our river. Students were engaged in applied STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) disciplines through hands-on water quality monitoring, habitat assessments, and studies of aquatic organisms, including fish and macro-invertebrates that are used to study the health of the river system.
ROAR Store – The ROAR Store is a universal approach initiated by the PBIS Committee as part of the positive school culture program. The students earn ROAR bucks by demonstrating the core Withrow expectations. Students spend their bucks on items within the store. These items are motivating for students, therefore increasing the frequency of positive behaviors within the building. One of our high school MD units runs the store to practice business skills. Due to COVID-19 our physical store is on hold; however, students can still earn ROAR bucks and virtual incentives.
Tiger Diner – Tiger Diner is a school wide diner that happens once per month at Withrow. Students in two of the MD units prepare and serve a three-course lunch to all staff at Withrow.
CATS (Cincinnati Arts and Technology Studio) – CATS provides students with access to state-of-the-art technology and professional resources, providing a hands-on learning experience in real working studies. Students engage in digital multimedia, 2D/3D art, and ceramics. All 24 students participate weekly in the CATS program. Twice per school year students will showcase their art and sell the pieces they have created for a profit.
Local Hyde Park resident and business owner Craig Kurz has kindly donated medical grade air purifiers, fans, sneeze guards, room dividers, and masks to an ESL (English Second Language) classroom taught by Ruba Al-Serhan. He provided amazing support during the pandemic and bought food items, books and school supplies that supported over 50 families.
He also connected Mrs. Ruba to Brain Brew Custom Distillery in Newtown. The owner of the distillery, Doug Hall, has donated over 3 million ounces of sanitizer to front line workers, food providers and teachers since March.
Mr Kurz delivered 10 cases of hand sanitizer for Mrs. Ruba’s classroom recently along with hundreds of spray bottles. He has changed many lives with the supplies he has graciously given to this classroom over the last 6 months! Community support means everything!
Our 7th-grade team, led by science teacher Eric Hickman, worked diligently with our 7th graders to conduct one of our first science fairs in a number of years. All 7th graders used the scientific method and research to answer various scientific questions they chose to investigate. The results of their diligent research and inquiry were put on display and judged. What an exciting display of academic talent!
Leadership and Social Justice
Our 7th-and 8th-graders were on the move last year participating in the Future Ambassadors Program led by Dr. Mary Webb, 7th grade math teacher, and Darron Hunter, community activist. Mr. Hunter developed a leadership mentoring program for urban young men and women where forums were held to discuss the social justice issues that impact their lives as students of color.
Additionally, Mr. Hunter also led students on a college tour and educational experiences to Kentucky State University and Miami University and to the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Finally, our 7th-graders participated in a partnership with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation where students were introduced to 3D printing and created 3D printed models.
9th Grade Physical Science Investigations
10th Grade Cincinnati Women’s Club – STEM Power AP Program Scholarship Recipients
Four Withrow sophomores were recipients of a $1,000.00 scholarship from the Cincinnati Woman’s Club (just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown) for their high academic achievement and promise in pursuit of careers in STEM. Each young lady Tiger will receive ongoing mentoring and support throughout high school, participate in summer STEM programs, and attend a luncheon with the women of the Cincinnati Woman’s Club.
11th Grade Agri-business Program
Our 11th grade students addressing supply and demand problems related to food scarcity in our city’s urban areas and those around the world.
Class of 2020 Seniors – YOU DID IT!!!
Artistically, our Withrow students put on three stellar performances last year: Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol holiday show and our Black History Show performance. Students in our drama class, stage craft, fine arts and music programs did a masterful job!
A Christmas Carol – Holiday Show
Black History Show
Strings Senior Orchestra
Our strings senior orchestra, under the direction of music teacher John Beasley, had the opportunity to perform for our Withrow High School Alumni Board in the Alumni Center just prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. Our strings senior orchestra played masterfully and provided a welcome evening of classical music that all who attended enjoyed!
Withrow Marching Band
Battle of the Bands at Woodward High School
Our Withrow Marching Tigers won 1st Place Overall Best Band and 2nd Place in Round 1.
Families Forward – Community Resource Coordinator Report
July 2020 began the LaSoupe student-athlete feeding program for students participating in fall/winter sports (football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball). Students who were at the school for multiple hours received pre- and post-practice healthy, hot meals with fruit and salad. Recently, the boys soccer team used the service for pre-game meals. Since July 2020, we’ve consistently fed over 70 students.
Additionally, we rolled out the Kroger Card/Hygiene Kit giveaways to families experiencing need due to COVID. The kits consist of a $75 Kroger gift card, laundry detergent, masks, hand sanitizer, soap, personal wipes, and sanitary items. Since July 2020, we’ve given these bags to 22 families and will be distributing 10 more within the week.
In July 2020—we received a generous donation of over 50 gently worn and new ties from former Bengals player, Solomon Wilcots. These ties will be housed in our professional clothing closet that we’ve developed as part of our school business program. Once a month, students will be permitted and expected to “dress for success” – coming to school in professional attire. For those young men who don’t have a tie, one will be provided to them for the day from the closet. Additionally, we received a generous donation from Maryanne Ries, Realtor/Owner of Coldwell Banker Hyde Park office. Mrs. Ries purchased a beautiful oil painting of Withrow’s campus from the silent auction held in conjunction with the Tiger Golf Outing in June 2020. She donated the painting back to the school to display in our illustrious Alumni Center.
In August 2020, we began the process of streamlining our communications with our staff, parents and students by using the Smores Online Newsletter platform. With this platform, we seamlessly communicate with ALL of our families including our ELL population, as the newsletter has a translation function that features over 100 global languages. We purchased the multi-user subscription with a grant awarded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Each grade level and department has a page which speaks specifically to their students and families, as well as the overall Withrow community. The project launched in late September and is featured on Schoology—the CPS educational platform which students and parents utilize to access information and assignments.
Our partners have been absolutely AMAZING in assisting with a host of initiatives, particularly during COVID. One of our main partners, Queen City Church, generously provided 1,400 personalized Withrow masks for students and staff, as well as additional face shields for staff. Upon returning to school, the WUHS staff received 165 PPE kits that were donated to us by Matthew 25 Ministries. Once again, Queen City Church also stepped in to feed our staff breakfast and coffee from Chick-Fil-A. Additionally, our beloved Alumni Association provided $15 gift cards from Dewey’s Pizza as a token of appreciation for all the hard work the staff continues to put in, especially during these unprecedented times.
Our current partners, 7-Hills Church, Queen City Church and new partner, Christ Emmanuel Church provided over 200 backpacks and supplies that we passed out to students during the first week of remote learning. CPS also provided 1,000 bags of school supplies donated to the District from Staples.
We have revised our mentoring program with Western & Southern – one of our main community partners – to adhere to regulations for outside volunteers in the building.
Finally, we celebrated two of our colleagues’ retirement from CPS district. We honored the 30-plus years of educational service to our community given by Jody McOsker (biology teacher) and Pam Thomas (administrator). We held a Tiger brunch in the Tower Courtyard compliments of the Alumni Association.
As we move into this month, we’ve established a partnership with Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood. As our two-year partner, Joseph Beth will conduct fundraisers where funds donated will go to the Principal’s Fund. Joseph Beth will also donate clearance gift items for our holiday ROAR Store so that our students can purchase the items as holiday gifts for their parents/guardians, etc. Additionally, Joseph Beth will provide a selection of 1,400 novels to enhance the literary selections offered in our English Department.
With the challenges of COVID-19 and ensuring our student athletes are healthy and safe, our fall sports teams continue to compete and gain the respect of the league. We have returned to the CMAC City League Conference play in football, soccer, volleyball and cross country. We are continuing to build a CHAMPIONSHIP mindset and culture of excellence! Continue to support our athletic program!
Football – Kali Jones, Head Varsity Football Coach
In his second year as head football coach, our Withrow football Tigers are making a lot of noise in the CMAC and turning heads. We are young, but hungry, and gaining invaluable experience with every snap of the ball. Coach Jones has made a tremendous impact on our football team and the overall culture of Withrow. Coach Jones is not just coaching kids, he is a teacher of the game-building, a holistic academic and athletic program one student athlete at time.
Soccer – Vince Pescatrice, Head Varsity Boys Soccer Coach
Good Luck, Coach P!
Volleyball – Jessica Boggan, Head Girls Varsity Volleyball Coach
What a tremendous improvement and turnaround in just a two-year period of time. Our Withrow Lady Tigers volleyball team are continually developing the fundamental skills necessary to compete at a high level. Coach Boggan definitely has her Lady Tigers positioned to make some serious noise this year and in the years to come!
Go Lady Tigers!!!
Cross-Country – Charnee Lumbus, Head Boys & Girls Varsity Cross Country Coach
Coach Lumbus is rebuilding and strengthening our cross country and track & field teams. They are competing with every stride and developing the endurance that will carry them into being top contenders in the city, region and state. Keep pushing them, Coach Lumbus!
We want to give a warm welcome to Sasha Young and Roberto Allen, our new head varsity girls and boys basketball coaches.
Sasha is a Withrow alumna and former Withrow junior high and JV girls basketball coach. She has a tremendous rapport with her players – bringing a strong ability to motivate her players to play hard and play smart at all times while emphasizing the fundamentals of the game. Sasha’s team will definitely be exciting to watch this year.
Roberto Allen is a former head varsity basketball coach of Gamble Montessori. Coach Allen brings a high-level of coaching experience, tenacity and up-tempo fundamental play to his players that is contagious. Coach Allen is rebuilding a program that will strongly compete for city and state championships this year and the years to come!
Wrestling – Randolph ”Coach Pine” Smith, Head Varsity Wrestling Coach
Coach Pine continues his legacy of training, developing and coaching young men in the numerous techniques and fundamental skills necessary to develop state wrestling champions. This past year, Coach Pine sent one of our freshmen to the State Sectional Finals where he placed third in the heavyweight division.
Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, our boys baseball, girls softball and boys and girls track & field teams were unable to participate in any athletic events last spring. However, we look forward to their return, their continued development in the off season and the restoration of the prominence of Withrow athletics to the baseball and softball diamonds and the track and field. Go Tigers!!!
Get out and Vote
Withrow University High School has made it easier for seniors to become civically engaged by sponsoring a Voter Registration and Poll Worker drive back in January and February 2020. During their lunch bell, students had the opportunity to register to vote and/or receive information and an application about becoming a poll worker for the March 17th Primary Election, which was postponed due to COVID-19. A handful of students who worked in the November 2019 election encouraged their peers to work in March. Despite their complaint about the “long, boring hours,” Withrow, in recent years, has yielded the highest number of student poll workers within the City of Cincinnati according to the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
In January of 2020, Withrow alumnus Dajon Walker paid it forward by offering free bi-weekly haircuts to his Withrow family. His generosity and commitment also inspired three of his barber friends to join him. Approximately 60 students, staff and community members waited in line to receive various barbering services. With WUHS being a High School of Business, grooming means everything and aligns with our soft skills curriculum. It gets students accustomed to establishing and practicing good grooming and professional habits.
Thank you so very much, Dajon and Crew!!
We are so very proud of our current Seniors (Class of 2021) who completed the Cincinnati Police Department’s Summer Cadet Program – led by Phil Penn, Withrow’s CPD School Resource Officer.
Our Lady Cadet Tigers spent 6 weeks in basic training, took a crash course in criminal law and volunteered a number of hours in the community – working at Cooperative with the Elderly Agency and the Free Store/ Food Bank.
Each has continued her work and leadership development assisting CPD during our fall and winter athletic events. Again, we are so very proud of our seniors and their tremendous leadership!
As you can see, we have been busy here at the ’Row in spite of the challenges we’ve faced with the pandemic. Our vision and mission are clear. We will continue to develop life-long learners who are change-agent leaders equipped with the capacity to adapt to change and provide the innovative solutions to the global challenges of the 21st Century. As outlined above, we are well on our way to cultivating and developing academic and athletic talent for the next 100 years.
It is my hope that each of you and your families continue to be healthy, safe and strong. And, always remember,
Once a Tiger…Always a Tiger!
All the Best,
Jerron T. Gray, Principal