EGCC grads encouraged to be their best, dream

OFFERING ENCOURAGEMENT – Deryck Toles offered advice and encouragement as keynote speaker at Eastern Gateway Community College’s 48th commencement program Saturday at Franciscan University’s Finnegan Fieldhouse. 

Since retiring from professional football, Deryck Toles has encouraged hundreds of disadvantaged youth to overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams.

And as keynote speaker for Eastern Gateway Community College’s 48th commencement program Saturday, Toles encouraged members of the school’s Class of 2017 to do their best in all aspects of their lives, from their work to their relationships with others.

“Be the best person you can be. Be your best at everything,” said Toles, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts before an injury brought his football career to an end.

Returning to his hometown of Warren, Toles founded Inspiring Minds, an organization aimed at improving disadvantaged youth’s chances for success by providing them additional instruction after school and during the summer, arranging visits to colleges and industries throughout the U.S. and beyond and providing more than $60,000 in scholarships.

Having no hope for a positive future is something Toles understands. He told members of EGCC’s Class of 2017 he grew up in Columbus in a house without parents. His father hadn’t been a part of his life and his mother’s addiction to drugs led her to being absent for extended periods.

As a fourth-grader he routinely cooked and cleaned and helped his younger brother and sister with their homework. He later moved in with his grandmother in Warren but had become very insecure and angry.

Toles said he tried out for basketball but was ineligible because of his poor grades. Fortunately, a football coach took him under his wings, offering the stern but supportive guidance he had lacked, he recalled.

Toles said anyone who has been successful has had someone who both believed in them and pushed them to follow their goals.

He told the EGCC grads they have faced their own detractors or obstacles “but, guess what, you did it?”

“This is just the first section of your lives,” Toles said, adding the graduates can apply the same determination as they move forward.

In welcoming the many in attendance, EGCC President Jimmie Bruce said commencements are his favorite time of the year because it is then that he sees“anticipation in the faces of the graduates, pride in the faces of our faculty and staff and joy in the faces of the students’ family members.”

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Warren Schools’ Hall of Fame celebration marks 25 years

WARREN (Tribune Chronicle) — Seven distinguished alumni and two distinguished faculty inductees joined more than 225 members of the Warren High Schools’ Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Saturday.

This year, which was the 25th anniversary, was marked by the annual awards dinner celebrating the individuals whose performance and achievements have reflected well on the city of Warren and the traditions of Warren Western Reserve and Warren G. Harding high schools.

The event, according to organizers, is a way to inspire today’s students and honor those who help inspire their future goals. It also allowed inductees the opportunity to meet old friends, staff and student scholars as well as tour Warren G. Harding High School.

Inductee Lark T. Mallory, Warren G. Harding Class of 1987, now employed with a nonprofit lender for affordable housing in Columbus, said she was amazed at the facility.

“It’s so different. It’s very nice,” she said.

A former majorette and swim team manager, Mallory was excited to meet 35-year teacher and former swim coach Frank Supancic. Mallory was also excited to share the evening with her aunt and uncle, Elaine and Donald Dawkins of Warren.

“My uncle told me I had brains and beauty and with brains and beauty, I could do anything,” she said.

Nominees had words of thank you on their lips throughout the room as they celebrated connections to their Warren roots and their individual sources of inspiration.

“I am looking forward to seeing so many people instrumental in me doing the things that I did in my career because it all started here,” said honoree David Lee Morgan Jr., Harding Class of 1984, who is now a teacher in the Massillon schools.

Morgan was joined by family and friends, including cousin-in-law-to-be, fellow nominee Steven T. Arnold, Harding Class of 1982.

“I am privileged and blessed,” Arnold said.

Those honored came from careers in education and industry, athletics, science, business and entertainment. Inductees are nominated and asked to submit biographies to a committee of about 20 Warren City School officials, according to the Board of Education.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to showcase the wonderful people that have come from this school and all the things that they are doing. It’s an amazing opportunity to show the kids today what they can become,” said inductee Deryck Toles, Harding class of 1999.

He is the founder of Inspiring Minds, the nonprofit organization committed to providing opportunities for at-risk youth.

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Mayor, superintendent give reasons to cheer Warren

Mayor Doug Franklin took the members of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber on a virtual tour of the city during his remarks at the annual Good Morning Warren breakfast.

From the new restaurant, coffee shop and craft brewery downtown, to a new senior-citizen housing complex and dialysis center on the West Side, he touched on the good things happening in the city.

He even suggested young people are taking greater pride in “the new Warren, Ohio,” viewing it as a good place to live as they grow into adulthood.

“Two weeks ago, I had the honor of speaking at the Inspiring Minds gala,” he said Thursday of the local nonprofit organization that helps underserved youth aspire to college and careers.

“A number of students, both current and former, spoke about going away to school, but they all mentioned their plans to come back to Warren, Ohio.

“To me, that’s exciting; that’s what feeds my optimism. Our young people are coming back to our city and taking an interest in participating in our city’s activities.”

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Inspiring Minds looks toward its future at gala

LIBERTY — The nonprofit organization Inspiring Minds encouraged people to donate to the program’s future at its 11th annual gala Saturday.

Founded by Deryck Toles, 36, of Warren, Inspiring Minds provides after-school and summer programs, college tours, and educational, athletic, health and personal development programs to at-risk youth. The program also organizes trips to colleges and foreign countries to give children as much exposure as possible.

Originally, the program was focused on Toles’ hometown of Warren, but it has since expanded to Youngstown as well.

“We started this with four students,” Toles said. “Now we’re at about 400, but the level of support has also grown.”

The theme of the gala was the future, both for the program and the future represented by the children helped by the program. During a speech, Toles reminisced about how far Inspiring Minds had come since its founding, from holding meetings in people’s basements to acquiring a building of their own near Warren G. Harding High School. “I remember meeting with four kids at McDonald’s,” Toles said.

Of the students helped by Inspiring Minds, all of them have gone on to college, the armed forces or entered into the workforce. However, none of these programs would be possible without volunteers and donations, so Toles said he hoped the fundraiser on Saturday would raise close to $80,000.

At the first such fundraiser, there were about 100 people, but Toles said approximately 600 people were expected to attend on Saturday.

A special guest at the gala was former astronaut Dr. Guion Bluford, 74, of Philadelphia, the first African American to go to space, who was presented the Inspiring Minds Legacy Award. Bluford served with NASA from 1978 to 1993 and traveled to space aboard three space shuttle missions.

“I like the purpose of Inspiring Minds. It encourages kids to achieve,” Bluford said. “It’s a great program.”

Jermari Bryant, 16, of Warren, has been with Inspiring Minds for two years and said her favorite part of the program is the trips. “I would recommend it because it’s very inspirational, it’s life changing,” Bryant said.

Fellow student Ryan Royster, 16, of Warren, has been with the program for four years and said he really enjoys learning about history, but his favorite part is also the trips to colleges.

“It’s a program that will give you a lot of guidance,” Royster said.

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Inspiring Minds Sets Fundraising Gala for April 22

WARREN — Inspiring Minds is planning its 11th annual fundraising gala 4 to 7 p.m. April 22 at the Metroplex Expo Center in Liberty.

It will bring together students, families, alumni, businesses, supporters and the community to celebrate the organization’s impact in the Mahoning Valley.

Deryck Toles, founder / CEO of Inspiring Minds, said the gala is one of the nonprofit’s largest fundraisers and has sold out at over 500 attendees the past five years.

“This year, we’re excited to host our gala at a new venue,that allows us to engage more businesses, invite more individuals and celebrate more student successes with our community,” he said.

More than 65 percent of the organization’s annual funding comes from special events and individual donations.

Toles said 2017 is going to be another big year for IM, saying, ”We have some exciting updates and announcements to share that will have a positive impact on local youth, and our community as a whole.”

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Deryck Toles on WFMJ – 21 News

Deryck Toles, IM Founder & CEO talks IM history, present day and the future with WFMJ’s Mike Case.

“Take me back 11 years ago… What was your vision? What did you want to do? What were you trying to do? Tell me how it all started out.”

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Inspiring Minds Youngstown hosts cocktail party fundraiser to continue enrichment programs

Simon Arias, who grew up in the city and now is board president of the Inspiring Minds chapter of Youngstown, said the organization is a godsend for the city and himself.

“It’s not what I’ve been able to do for Inspiring Minds, it’s what Inspiring Minds has done for me,” he said.

Arias welcomed the dozens of supporters from Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the Youngstown area who attended the Inspiring Minds of Youngstown cocktail party fundraiser Thursday night. The party was held in the DeBartolo Stadium Club at Youngstown State University with a 50/50 raffle contest, a silent auction and a merchandise table.

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Initiative launches mentoring programs in Youngstown, Warren

Although Barack Obama only has a few months left in his presidency, one of his initiatives could continue on in a couple of local school districts.

Students from Youngstown and Warren took part in a ceremony Monday morning, launching “My Brother’s Keeper.” The program, started by the Obama Administration, aims to help kids prepare for college or careers after graduation.

It will bring young men of color together with community leaders and others as mentors, something organizers say kids from lower income families don’t always have the same access to.

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Inspiring Minds Volunteer Donates Tuition Credits

When Denzel Stevens, a junior telecommunications student at Youngstown State University, received a special call from Deryck Toles, founder & CEO of Inspiring Minds, he was speechless. Through Ohio’s GIVE Back. GO Forward. volunteer program, Stevens had been gifted free tuition vouchers for six college credits.

The GIVE Back. GO Forward. program was founded in 2015 to provide new opportunities to connect generations through volunteerism. GIVE Back. GO Forward. – a partnership between the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Ohio Department of Aging, Mature Services, Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College, Inspiring Minds and Mahoning Valley United Way – offers Ohioans ages 60+ who volunteer 100 hours with designated nonprofits the opportunity to earn free three-credit tuition vouchers at YSU or EGCC. They can use these free vouchers for themselves, family, friends or community members.

William Henderson, a longtime volunteer at Inspiring Minds, chose to donate his free tuition vouchers to a former Inspiring Minds student, Denzel Stevens.

“Words cannot describe how much it means to me that people believe in me and value my education this much,” said Stevens, who is currently paying for his YSU education with scholarships and financial aid. “These free credits take a lot of stress off of me now, and in the future.”

To qualify as full-time at YSU, a student must take 12 credits per semester. The voucher donation from Henderson will cover up to half of a semester for Stevens.

Stevens is expected to graduate December 2017 and plans to pursue a career in voice acting.

Henderson said deciding to donate the vouchers back to Inspiring Minds was an easy decision. “Inspiring Minds has become part of my family over the years, and I’m going to take advantage of any way that I can help the kids in our community,” he said.

Stevens said he would like to thank everyone involved for the opportunity to continue his education with these vouchers, specifically Inspiring Minds. “Inspiring Minds showed me that my future was full of possibilities; they took me on college visits, helped me find my career path, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

“While Inspiring Minds serves students in grades K-12, our relationships with our students don’t stop after they graduate high school,” Toles said. “The GIVE Back. GO Forward. program is just another way we can help our students become strong, successful members of society.”

YSU President Jim Tressel added, “GIVE Back. GO Forward. represents a unique partnership to help reduce the cost of higher education. We look forward to watching Denzel proceed through school, graduate and become the next great YSU success story. Congratulations to Denzel and a big thank you to William for his generosity and continuing efforts to advance the youth of the Mahoning Valley.”

To learn more about how you can get involved with the GIVE Back. GO Forward. program, visit or contact Mandie Maxwell at (614) 728-3097.

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Girls learn about entrepreneurship at Inspiring Minds summer camp

Treona Crenshaw, 15, has participated for two years in Inspiring Minds Summer Camp and says it’s been time well spent.

“They show us the world,” Treona, a sophomore at Warren G. Harding High School, said. “I’ve seen things I’ve never seen before and probably wouldn’t get to see” without the program.

Friday, Treona and 25 other young women at the camp learned how to make a business plan, pitch it to potential investors and develop a website for it.

The Youngstown Business Incubator received a $5,000 grant from the AT&T Aspire program to introduce entrepreneurial principles and science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts to the girls in Inspiring Minds Summer Camp.

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