Urban Community School adds new partners to Ohio City campus

A rendering of Refugee Response’s new headquarters on W. 47th St.

A rendering of Refugee Response’s new headquarters on W. 47th St.

In recent years, Urban Community School in Ohio City has expanded its footprint at Lorain Avenue and West 47th Street. It has built the Gallagher Family Lacrosse Field as a hub for the Lacrosse Communities Project in partnership with US Lacrosse, created a new home for Urban Squash Cleveland, and opened an additional House of Champions, an after-school program for students who attend UCS and Metro Catholic School.

Now, UCS is set to add two additional community partners on West 47th Street just south of Lorain Avenue — Refugee Response, a nonprofit organization that empowers refugees resettled in Northeast Ohio to thrive in their new home, and Facing History and Ourselves, a group that uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and students to stand up to bigotry and hate.

“It’s a great opportunity to be on campus with other like minded, socially-serving nonprofits,” said Refugee Response director Patrick Kearns. “We can learn from each other and draw on the strengths of other organizations. It’s a destination location as a hub for services. That’s exciting, the ability to provide crosscutting support services.”

Aerial view of the UCS campus in Ohio City.

Aerial view of the UCS campus in Ohio City.

“We jumped at the opportunity to join the UCS campus for a number of reasons,” added Mark Swaim-Fox, director of the Cleveland office at Facing History and Ourselves, in an email. “First is mission alignment. UCS and FH are both dedicated to creating more informed, humane and engaged citizens and we truly believe we are better and stronger together in accomplishing these goals. So it was a no brainer to move to this campus to work with other like minded organizations.”

Tom Gill, president of UCS, said in an email that the two offices, which were recently approved by the city planning commission and will be built to resemble single-family homes, will be about 11,000 square feet including the basement. UCS raised funds with Refugee Response and Facing History. The school will serve as developer and owner, with the two nonprofits as tenants. They expect construction to start soon and finish by the fall once Knez Homes, the builder, submits plans to the city and receives a building permit. Previously, there were homes on the site, but UCS acquired them and demolished them. The school also has two additional lots where it expects to build offices.

Rendering of Facing History’s new office on W. 47th St.

Rendering of Facing History’s new office on W. 47th St.

Refugee Response manages a number of programs, including youth tutoring, teen mentoring, a women’s sewing cooperative, and the Ohio City Farm. Although it saw a slowdown in the number of new arrivals during the Trump administration, with less federal assistance available, there was an uptick in need among the more than 30,000 resettled families in Northeast Ohio. Refugee Response helps about 250 people on an annual basis.

With changes being made by the new administration, Kearns said he expects the number of newcomers coming into the US to increase, as well. Ohio ranks fourth nationally as a state destination location for refugees and secondary migration (their family members), he said. Cleveland is the second highest city behind only Columbus in Ohio. “In five years, we’ve tripled the number of beneficiaries we work with, and we expect that trend to continue,” he said.

Swaim-Fox said Facing History has held office space in Cleveland Heights for over 20 years, but a majority of the students, teachers and schools they serve are in Cleveland. “This move gives us a chance to be closer to and to better support our community and constituents,” he said.

In addition to the improvements mentioned above, in 2020, UCS also opened the Cletus Jeckering Family Health Center – Ohio City Health Center in partnership with MetroHealth. The school recently completed construction on its early childhood center, which it expects to open in July 2021.

Lee Chilcote is a freelance writer and editor of The Land.

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