'Fed Scholars' pen book on life as teens in Cleveland
That is, until, he became part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Fed Scholars Program. Terrance is one of seven rising seniors at Lincoln-West who were hired last summer as interns at the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, which recently published a book full of the students’ writing. The collection of poems and short stories, titled “Somewhere in Cleveland: The Cleveland Fed Scholars Story Project,” gives readers a look at the city through the students’ eyes.
Writing in the foreword to the book, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President and CEO Loretta J. Mester said, “The students’ stories are candid, written in their own words, and informed by their daily lives. Woven throughout the book are threads of youthful optimism and pride in their communities – something I find inspiring.”
Since 2001, The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has partnered with community organizations to employ students from area high schools in a paid internship. The students learn about career paths, gain workplace and life skills and contribute to the Bank’s education and museum outreach work. But this was the first batch of Fed Scholars to also become published authors.
Last year, the Bank partnered with Esperanza, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the academic achievement of Hispanic students. The Lincoln-West students who were hired were such a good fit that the Bank invited them back this summer, said manager of education and museum outreach Jennifer Ransom. Almost all of them took up the offer.
The idea for the book was born from writing projects the students completed last summer when they worked with writers from Lake Erie Ink during the internship. The writing instructors gave the students unique prompts and activities to inspire new thoughts, like taking a walk around the block in Downtown Cleveland and writing a poem about a person they saw.
Another exercise took them to the Terminal Tower observation deck to take in a breathtaking view of the city. The view from 42 floors up was a source of poetic inspiration for one student, Deepak Bhattarai.
Deepak’s family came to Cleveland as refugees from Nepal in 2015. He said looking out over the Cuyahoga River and the city streets reminded him of when he would stand on top of a building in his home country looking out at the view, which was mostly trees.
Many of Deepaks poems, with titles like, “Homeland,” “I Belong” and “Leaving my Birthplace,” give readers an emotional account of what it’s like to be a refugee. But writing them didn’t come easily, Deepak said.
“I didn’t really like writing, but the people I met through the internship helped me with that,” he said. “We could create our own stories and I enjoyed that.”
For Terrance, who has lived on both the east and west sides of Cleveland, writing was a way to defend his city against Cleveland naysayers.
“I love my city but a lot of people think it’s dangerous,” Terrance said. “I can’t just hate somewhere where I grew up. I felt like this experience helped me express that better through writing.”
When the interns weren’t writing, they were immersing themselves in the daily operations of the Bank and its Learning Center and Money Museum. They also attended the Policy Summit on Housing, Human Capital and Inequality, a national conference hosted by the Bank.
After meeting Bank employees and lunching with local leaders, including Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, the students said they feel like they can “talk to anyone.”
Deepak said he’s gotten better at holding conversations, working in groups and being confident in himself. The most important thing he learned was how to apply to college, thanks to the Bank’s college interns who spent time with the Fed Scholars.
Kathleen Murphy, who oversees the Fed Scholars in the museum’s education and outreach department, said she’s seen immense growth since the interns started.
“They came out of their shells," Murphy said. “To see them to be able to chat with people and tell them about what they do has been great, and they did a lot of college and career exploration. It’s been nice to see them embrace that.”
“Somewhere in Cleveland: The Cleveland Fed Scholars Story Project” is available to download for free on the Bank’s website.