Thursday, February 01, 2001

Schools put aside rivalries

Working together this day only

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They cleaned. They painted a mural. They sorted clothing.

        What they didn't do was compete.

        About 40 athletes in the Miami Valley Conference Student Forum gathered in Over-the-Rhine and downtown Wednesday for a day of service projects.

[photo] Lockland High School senior April Witt checks the shoe size as she and Summit Country Day junior Lauren Manning work Wednesday at Dress for Success as part of a volunteer service project.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        The forum gives athletes a chance to meet in a noncompetitive setting. That paves the way for fewer conflicts on the playing field.

        “I like the fact we can get to know kids from other schools,” said Tiffany Turner. The 18-year-old New Miami senior sorted clothes downtown at Dress for Success, which gives tailored clothing to low-income women for job interviews and jobs.

        Ms. Turner plays volleyball and softball, and is a cheerleader for football and basketball.

        Friendships forged through the student forum have helped eliminate some of that unfriendly bantering that often occurs between schools during games, she said.

        The student forum is part of the MVC Sportsmanship Forum, organized in 1998 to establish good relationships among the teams.

        Membership includes principals and athletic directors from all nine schools in the conference.

        Students and principals meet three times a year at member schools. Twice a year, they hold student exchanges, where kids visit different schools for a day.

        Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, host for this student forum, decided to broaden the students' experience through a day of service projects.

        “We came up with the idea because, at our school, we require community service hours,” said Joan Miracle, principal at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy High School.

        “We know by serving others, we get great joy from that.”

        And so they decided to spread that joy around. MVC athletes worked at Dress for Success, Sign Of The Cross, City Cure, Common Ground Ministries, Salvation Army and City Gospel Mission.

        They were accompanied by two principals, teachers or athletic directors at each site.

        Andrea Merrick, a 17-year-old senior and cheerleader from Seven Hills Upper School, said her school requires community service hours, but she likes to do more.

        “Everyone should be able to do something for the community. A lot of people at my school just do the minimum. I want to give back. I grew up in New York in a poor neighborhood. I understand how hard it is.”

        The MVC is a combination of public and private schools: Cincinnati Country Day, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Landmark Christian, Lockland, New Miami, North College Hill, St. Bernard, Seven Hills and Summit Country Day.

        “It's certainly eliminated a lot of stereotypes,” Ms. Miracle said of the forum. “Public school kids sometimes think only rich kids go to private schools. Kids are kids no matter where they go to school.”

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