Cleveland Leadership Center: Seeking Accelerate 2019 Changemakers

Cleveland Leadership Center: Seeking Accelerate 2019 Changemakers

Tory Coats has a vision for revitalizing Cleveland neighborhoods.  

“What used to be abandoned buildings and streets filled with blight are now business centers, technology incubators and the new wave of retail shopping,” he says.

Teen Enterprise Dare2Believe pop-up shops, created by Coats, are teaching youth entrepreneurs how to sell their products at vacant properties and storefronts. Since presenting his idea at the Cleveland Leadership Center’s annual Accelerate: Citizens Make Change event in February, teens have hosted multiple pop-up shops. You can see this vision come to life again at Accelerate on Feb. 27, 2019, where these young entrepreneurs will sell their wares.

If you have an idea on how to improve Cleveland, apply before Nov. 30 [UPDATE: New deadline is 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3] to pitch at Accelerate 2019. Winners receive up to $5,000 in seed money to launch your idea. 

Along with Coats, other Accelerate winners are making a notable difference in our community. Jowan Smith gathered knowledge about helping children from low-income families become accepted in college by doing the research for her daughter. Thanks to this experience, she created Getting Our Babies to College 101 to help other parents. Smith stresses the importance of college visits and starting the process in eighth grade. She created interactive workshops to help students with the athletic scholarship process, financial aid paperwork and other college funding. During the past two years, Smith has hosted dozens of workshops, presented at local and national conferences, and been featured regularly by media. She’s helped hundreds of families navigate the process.

Jowan Smith showcases Getting Our Babies into College 101

Starting with a younger age group, Ben Colas’ Accelerate pitch focused on helping children be kindergarten ready. As a kindergarten teacher in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Colas knows when children start kindergarten behind their peers, they stay behind. He created KinderKits to help families better prepare children for school. The kit contains items kids love (Froot Loops, Skittles, etc.) and instructions for parents on how to use the items to help children learn counting, sorting and letter and number recognition. To date, KinderKits have helped more than 6,000 families prepare children for kindergarten across Cleveland, Lorain County, Toledo, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

To connect caring people with organizations that need support, Pam Turos created an online social good platform, called Good Cause CLE, when she pitched at Accelerate (now WISH Cleveland). Her team of writers share the human side of a story to celebrate, uplift and empower organizations doing great work in Northeast Ohio. Since February 2016, WISH Cleveland has featured more than 500 people and organizations. Pam’s unwavering dedication to the mantra from her Accelerate pitch, “together we can do more than we ever could alone,” is now amplified through the #GivingTuesdayCLE event on Nov. 27. The Leadership Center is a proud partner of this citywide movement. Find out how you can donate and join the celebration at

Accelerate: Citizens Make Change is the Leadership Center’s mission in action supporting leaders committed to our community’s excellence.

Through events like Accelerate, the annual We Are Cleveland: Leading for Change  conference, seven core leadership programs, and other educational and engagement opportunities, Cleveland Leadership Center is connecting and empowering people to transform Cleveland.

FEATURE PHOTO: An entrepreneur from Teen Enterprise Dare2Believe sells her products. Courtesy of Cleveland Leadership Center.

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