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Initiative to make learning more accessible through comics wins Accelerate civic pitch competition

The winners of Accelerate: Citizens Make Change civic pitch competition pose on stage
Cleveland Leadership Center
Cleveland Leadership Center
The Accelerate civic pitch competition is put on by the Cleveland Leadership Center, which gives funds to ideas that improve communities.

An effort to make science accessible by creating educational comics won the 10th annual Accelerate civic pitch competition on Feb. 22. It was launched in 2015 by the Cleveland Leadership Center.

"Comics are actually kind of a gateway at this point. So, kids these days gravitate towards graphic novels and they get to the point where they're reading giant books that are all graphic novels. So kids that are struggling readers feel like they've accomplished something by reading these giant books," said Laura Balliet, whose winning pitch is called "Cool School Comics."

The contest helps everyday people create change in their own neighborhoods, including in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and well-being, social change and thriving neighborhoods.

This year's finalists also included an indoor quilt trail and a curated dining experience that partners with immigrant-owned and operated restaurants.

We'll start Monday's show by talking to some of the innovators, another in our "Makers Monday" series.

Later, we hear from the winners of the "Teen Accelerate: Students Make Change" contest. The teens who took home the grand prize this year found inspiration amid grief after their friend passed away. They helped create a garden at a local foster care center.

And to end the show, Cleveland State University is celebrating 60 years this month, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. In commemoration of this anniversary, and Black History Month, there's a new exhibit on display at the university's Berkman Hall in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College.

Dr. Thomas Bynum, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies said, "students began fighting for more inclusive society on college campuses so it'll be a reflection of what was happening in mainstream society during the Civil Rights Movement."

It's called "Protest to Progress," which highlights historical events that were central to Cleveland's part in the national Civil Rights Movement and connects these to the history of CSU.

The exhibit is a collection of photos, newspaper clippings and commentary and it showcases how that history has impacted the direction of the university since its inception, leading up to today.

- Laura Balliett, Accelerate winner, "Cool School Comics"
- Sarah Kidner, Technovation Winner, "Micro Scholarship Mentor Match"
- Ariana Smith, Finalist, "M.H.M. Youth Summit"
- Lilly Moran, Hathaway Brown School, "Teen Accelerate" Winner, "Growing Hope"
- Gabby Ransom, Hathaway Brown School, "Teen Accelerate" Winner, "Growing Hope"
- Ronald Kisner, Founder, The Vindicator, Cleveland State University
- Thomas Bynum, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Africana Studies, Cleveland State University

Jay Shah is an associate producer for the “Sound of Ideas.”