Luring Young Adults Back to Cleveland

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On a side street in University Circle, Robert Jaquay, assistant director of the Gund Foundation, has designed a custom Lolly the Trolley tour of Cleveland to convey a important message to those on board about the city.

Robert Jaquay: I'm hopeful they'll be able to see that over the course of our history, there have been people that have taken risks and have made contributions. And that as educated young professionals they too will be able to make those sorts of things happen for themselves in Cleveland for the benefit of all of us in the community.

The tour is one of many events planned for students filling internships through the program Summer on the Cuyahoga. On board are some of this year's 76 students, from all across the country, selected out of 600 applicants to work in Cleveland's hospitals, law firms, local businesses and non-profits. Lauren Johnston, leaning out a trolley window, is an intern at a local public relations firm. She says before her stay here, she never really thought Cleveland was for her.

Lauren Johnston: I've been most pleased by the amount of stuff going on. I grew up in a small city and being in a middle sized city where there's such a social scene any night it's a lot more than I expected.

The interns hail from Princeton, Cornell, Yale, Colgate, Smith College and Case Western Reserve University. Employers contribute $1,000 for each intern towards their stay. They live in Case dormitories, which makes for easy access to the vast array of activities planned for them, from sporting events to receptions with local CEOs.

At one such event in Tremont, potential employers and students are shuffled among restaurants and stores every 45 minutes, intermingling with new people at every location.

At the gift boutique the Banyan Tree, participants sample shrimp and red wine as they network. Sitting on a small leopard print couch is Magdalene Goble from Dodge City, Kansas. She's an intern at Aspire, a non-profit working to instill leadership skills in inner-city girls. She says she's grown to like Cleveland so much, she finds herself defending it to her east coast friends.

Magdalene Goble: In emails I some times get snide kinda remarks... references to Cleveland's history, such as the river catching on fire, high unemployment rates, or pollution.

Goble says her friends are looking to work in cities like Chicago or San Francisco after they graduate. But she says Cleveland might suit her just fine.

Magdalene Goble: I think that Cleveland offers the same things that those cities do, but in a much more accessible manner. Because it's a little bit smaller you don't have to deal with things like traffic the way you would in those other cities. The cost of living is much more affordable, and after you graduate with student loans it would be much easier to settle in Cleveland then another city.

Across the boutique, David Cowin of Lubrizol Corporation trades business cards with several students. He says he's pretty impressed with the quality of the young people he's met.

David Cowin: Very articulate, very mature, great aspect and outlook on life.

Lubrizol Corporation has hired one student this year and it's committed to hiring another next year. The Summer on the Cuyahoga program's placement rate is about 35%, so not all interns will be offered or accept permanent jobs in Cleveland. But Cowin says even those who don't still gain from the program.

David Cowin: It gives them a opportunity to see something they might not other wise see. And there have been a number of them that have stayed.

Over the four years of the program's existence, 19 Summer on the Cuyahoga interns have taken permanent jobs in Cleveland. Two of those jobs are at Developers Diversified Reality in Beachwood. Its' Chief Investment Officer and Colgate Alumnus, Dan Hurwitz, says every new young person brought here is a success for the city.

Dan Hurwitz: Even if the number of people coming back to Cleveland is five, that's five more than we would have gotten without the program. ...Who are active contributors to companies in Cleveland and good spokespeople for Cleveland, who never in a million years would have thought of Cleveland as their home.

The 10-week Summer on the Cuyahoga program concludes next week. Lisa Ann Pinkerton, 90.3.

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