NEOSTEM Ecosystem Statement of the Times Message | School in Fall 2020
Feb 11

WIR’ED Project Businesses, Students Begin Work

Shopkeepers and students meet to plan specific marketing goals

CLEVELAND – In their first full week of work, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and East Cleveland Schools students, and Old Brooklyn and East Cleveland business owners gathered online to discuss their work on WIR’ED, a program that pairs students and marketing professionals with business owners to improve online operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mel McGee, founder of We Can Code It, guided the meeting and discussed the students’ objectives in the project. Students are asked to track their time, maintain participation in the program, and meet performance standards, tasks meant to teach students business management skills. “One of the things we’re trying to teach [students] is responsibility,” McGee said. “We’re trying to teach [them] how to fish. This is a very common way to work in business.”

But McGee said in addition to instilling a sense of personal responsibility, the WIR’ED project also aims to give students the confidence to offer their ideas and expertise to the businesses they serve. “Your voice is so needed, not only welcome, but needed,” McGee told the students. “You’re integral to this project, so please speak up.”

McGee also introduced students to canva.com, a platform used to create online content for businesses, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media posts.

“We’re not necessarily designers, but we want to help companies,” she said. “You might not have folks to design for you, but you want to have interesting campaigns.”

Shopkeepers and students then broke out into individual work groups to discuss their individual business plans and goals.

New Tech West School sophomore Reauna Walker, who is working with Garrett Morgan School of Innovation and Engineering freshman Arianette Marie Roman-Nunez and partnered with the Falafel Café, plans to increase the business’s visibility by expanding its social media presence and distributing promotional flyers and business cards throughout its neighborhood and surrounding communities.

Cleveland School of the Arts student Moises Tuyas, who is working with Lincoln West School of Science and Health senior Halima Mohamed and is partnered with Bill Kap Piano, pointed out the importance of understanding the business’s target market and audience. “When I think about it, their audience is teens and younger, and [we need to] learn about their path and what they would like in their future,” Tuyas said.

Mohamed added they plan to develop a bank of social media posts the business can use after the project ends. “He needs something he can use to become a habit, not just a one-time thing,” Mohamed said.

Conceived in March 2020 by NeoSTEM leaders and the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, WIR’ED seeks to respond to the needs of brick-and-mortar businesses with little or no online presence struggling to operate in the increasingly socially distanced and online world triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and Case Western Reserve University partnered to provide funding for the project.

Businesses participating in the project include Bill Kap Piano, David’s Challenge Young Achievers Ohio, the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center, the Falafel Café, Gus’s Old Brooklyn Family Restaurant, the Historical Society of Old Brooklyn, the JDL Treat and Flower Shoppe, and the Northeast Ohio Alliance for Hope.

Business owners, students, and marketing advisors will continue to meet throughout February and March to discuss their goals, and will gather online on a weekly basis to discuss their progress, with the next meeting scheduled for February 8.

For more information, contact Alyssa Lenhoff-Briggs at alyssabriggs@tiesteach.org.

Meeting date: February 8, 2021