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Ivy League alumni recruit CMSD juniors

Local alumni from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth honored top CMSD juniors on Thursday night, conveying a message to the students that they, too, can be Ivy League material.
The seventh annual Ivy League Book Prize ceremony, held Thursday at the John Hay Campus auditorium, paid tribute to 89 District students who hold high grade-point averages and are active in the community.  The students, who were nominated by their high schools, each received a book presented by an alumni group.
The ceremony is designed to get kids thinking about all their options, not just those that are familiar. Three of this year's CMSD seniors, two from Cleveland Early College High School and one from the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, have been admitted to Ivy League schools, but Harvard graduate Audrey Petsche Sims would like to see the numbers go much higher.
Sims grew up as one of five sisters raised by their divorced mother, and she attended the Cleveland schools, including the Jane Addams Business Careers Center, before graduating from Shaw High School in East Cleveland.  She later worked as a principal and assistant principal in the District.
The alumni come to the ceremony to network with smart, capable "diamonds in the rough" and reach out to juniors in hopes they will give serious thought to applying to one of the colleges, Sims said. She handed out copies of Richard J. Light's book "Making the Most of College," based on interviews with Harvard seniors.
Participating in the event is "a way to give back," Sims said. "I never forget my roots."
The Harvard Club of Northeast Ohio held the ceremony on its own for years but joined forced with other chapters seven years ago and has watched participation increase.
Marissa Arnold, a photography student at the Cleveland School of the Arts, is considering joining the Air Force after graduation, becoming an engineer and getting her pilot's license. She carries a 3.98 average and ranks fifth in her class but still was humbled to be in the auditorium Thursday night.
"I never thought an Ivy League college would honor me, coming from an inner-city school," she said.
A few rows ahead of Marissa, Raeshawn Hall II of Ginn Academy sat quietly with his hands folded, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Raeshawn, a 3.8 student, is thinking about a career related to computer science and said going to any of the four institutions "would be fine with me, to tell the truth. Not everyone has this opportunity."
His foster father, Robert Williams, chose all-male Ginn for Raeshawn because he believed it would provide strong discipline. Williams is proud of the "astronomical progress" his foster son has made and saw the Book Prize ceremony as another step in a journey.
"I'm hoping something like this will show him he can do it," Williams said.  "I want to give him every chance to succeed."