Student Spotlight: Spring 2018 – Spring 2019

The following students participated in the Mann Externship Program during the Spring 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters. This program, sponsored by Robert and Carol Mann, places students with area organizations to gain hands-on experience in the areas of research and policy related to child well-being. Thank you to all the organizations and individuals who supervised and mentored these students!

Case Western Reserve University extern Zoë Sykes-Varnhagen posed with two other females

Spring 2019

Invest in Children (IIC) is the Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood’s initiative to provide resources and support to parents and caregivers to ensure that all children in Cuyahoga County are healthy and safe. IIC also focuses on building awareness and advocacy in the community around issues that pertain to children and families. Some of the programs that IIC administers in Cuyahoga County include Home-Visiting Services, an Early Childhood Mental Health Program, Early Literacy Services, and an evidence-based Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) Program.

Under the supervision of Rebekah Dorman and Shawna Rohrman, Zoë Sykes-Varnhagen analyzed UPK enrollment data, conducted research on Ohio’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, attended meetings with local policymakers, and compared Cuyahoga County’s UPK Program to similar programs in other U.S. states and cities. She also had the opportunity to conduct monitoring visits at local preschools to ensure that UPK providers are remaining high-quality and upholding their contracts with the county.

Zoë’s experience at IIC has helped her better define her long-term career vision and believes that with the knowledge gained from this opportunity, she will one day take her work in child policy to the next level.

Marissa Jones (second from right) and externship supervisor Kristen Milzelbank (middle) with other members of the programs and advocacy department

Fall 2018

Greater Cleveland Food Bank is a nonprofit that focuses on the mission of providing nutritious meals to the people of Northeast Ohio. The food bank is comprised of a warehouse where food is donated, stored, and distributed, a kitchen where meals are made, a help center to assist people in applying for public services, and administrative space. Not to be confused with a food pantry, Greater Cleveland Food Bank does not serve meals or food items directly from the warehouse. Instead, the food bank orchestrates programs to feed vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens and children, while maintaining partnerships with local food pantries.

During her time at Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Marissa Jones was able to work within the Advocacy department. Working with other departments, Marissa collated data concerning participation with the food banks’ programs and the need in the counties served. Speaking on her experience, Marissa explained, “being able to read policies and programs are one thing, but being able to use data through the Census and our electronic databases allow nonprofits, like Greater Cleveland, to comprehend the impact in the community and what are the possible successes or failures of the program”.  While at Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Marissa worked closely with the Programs staff with a program called Kids Cafe, which provided children with meals after school. This experience allowed Marissa to have a deeper understanding of food insecurity in Ohio and America as a whole and fueled her passion to work in the nonprofit sector in the future.

Grace Chu (right) with externship supervisor Joan Englund (left), Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition

Spring 2018

Through completing the Mann Child Policy Externship at the Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition (MHAC) under the supervision of Joan Englund, Grace Chu gained a practical understanding of how policy development occurs. At the MHAC, Grace conducted policy research on children’s behavioral health in Ohio. Grace focused her work on identifying current trends and challenges that hinder children’s quality of care and access to services. In the process of gathering data and resources, she initiated meetings with community stakeholders to discuss their perspectives on the research topic. Because of these meetings, Grace was able to better understand the importance of having varied stakeholders collectively contribute to the development and implementation of policy.

Furthermore, Grace greatly appreciated the support that her supervisor, Joan, provided. Joan was always willing to answer questions or provide Grace with resources to consider in her research. Joan’s guidance played a major role in shaping Grace’s knowledge of policy and advocacy. Ultimately, Grace is thankful for the opportunities that the Mann Externship provided, as well as the learning experiences at the MHAC.

For her externship, Delaney Jones was placed at Frontline, under the supervision of Rosemary Creeden, and the Child Advocacy Center, under the supervision of Jennifer Johnson.

The mission of Frontline is to reach out to adults and children in Northeast Ohio to end homelessness, prevent suicide, resolve behavioral health crises, and overcome trauma.

At Frontline, Delaney assisted Rosemary in researching and planning for various projects that Frontline is involved with in the community, such as creating a domestic violence victim memorial, starting a youth transitional living program, providing mental health services in recreation centers, and trainings for DCFS staff. She spent some time shadowing the mobile crisis team, and learned about the prevalence of trauma in Cleveland and the different types of services that Frontline provides. In addition, Delaney spent some time researching the relationship between ADHD and trauma for a presentation that she gave to Frontline staff. Her capstone research focused on trauma informed care in the Cleveland municipal school district and evaluated their current social emotional learning curriculum. Delaney’s main takeaway from her capstone research was the importance of social and emotional learning in schools, and the importance of starting with the adults.

At the upcoming Child Advocacy Center (CAC), Delaney learned the importance of a multidisciplinary team approach for child victims of abuse, which will be the goal of the CAC. She researched forms of medical service delivery and which would be the best form for the Cleveland CAC. She also completed research on family justice centers (FJCs) to look into possible future collaboration between the CAC and FJC. This experience opened her eyes to how much detail goes into starting up an organization like the CAC. She learned a lot about how organizations collaborate with each other and the advantages and struggles associated with trying to collaborate.

Delaney has been planning to go into social work and thinking about wanting to work at the individual treatment level, but participating in the Mann Child Policy Externship shaped her future career goals by sparking her interest in macro- level policy work or work with community change.

Shelby Mitchell (left) with externship supervisor, Tim McDevitt (right), Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court

The mission of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court is to administer justice, rehabilitate juveniles, support and strengthen families and promote public safety. The court achieves this mission by aiming to connect youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system to community and services.

Shelby Mitchell graduated in May 2018 with a major in Psychology and minors in Childhood Studies, Marketing, Social Work, and Art Studio. Shelby has a strong interest in the juvenile justice with a special focus on practices addressing trauma intervention. After law school, Shelby plans to expand her business, Xtravagant Mxnds, in order to establish several cooperative art centers for youth to be able to learn and hone their artistic crafts. Shelby was placed with the Probation Department of the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, supervised by Tim McDevitt, Deputy Court Administrator. Based off of her time at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, she has now been looking into becoming a Guardian ad Litem after the completion of law school. Much of her time was spent orientating herself to the juvenile court system operation, policies, and procedures from a administrative standpoint, while also shadowing several key players at the court. During her time there, she researched possible intervention points for juveniles committed to Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS). Shelby conducted a detailed case review of a sample of juveniles who were committed to ODYS, and based on her review and analysis, she was able to identify common services, and other common factors such as early signs of trauma, dual involvement with the court, and familial incarcerations. Based on this review and analysis, she was then able to develop a set of recommendations for the court highlighting an emphasis on reducing the negative impacts of trauma, increased focus on “crossover youth”, ensuring timely services for juveniles, and commonalities to look for in cases.

Brittany Rabb (left) with externship supervisor, Marianna Seeholzer (right), Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services

Brittany Rabb was placed at the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services under the supervision of Marianna Seeholzer, Education Liaison and ESSA Point of Contact. Brittany got extensive exposure to the internal processes of the agency by attending meetings, accompanying caseworkers and mental health professionals on home visits, and spending time at the juvenile court.  She is particularly interested in education stability for children in foster care, and therefore conducted her capstone research project on how to include children who are in foster care in decisions regarding their education. After interviewing caseworkers on strategies for engaging youth in foster care, Brittany created a training tool that the agency has decided to incorporate into their new worker training. She will maintain a relationship with the agency to help see this implementation through. This experience showed Brittany how structural inequalities impact children and the agencies that serve them, and furthered her passion for working to ensure every child has a safe environment and equal access to success.

Rebekah Russell (left) with externship supervisor, James Pearlstein (right), Greater Cleveland Congregations

Rebekah Russell is a 2018 psychology graduate who developed an interest in child development after taking several child related classes at CWRU. Upon learning about the Child Policy Externship at CWRU and the Schubert Center, Rebekah declared a minor in Childhood Studies and intends to use her education to benefit children as a physician and advocate for juvenile justice reform.

Rebekah was placed with Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) which is a coalition of faith-based and community-based organizations in Cleveland that focuses on building power and being a catalyst for change in Greater Cleveland. Rebekah worked extensively with lead organizer, Mr. James Pearlstein. GCC placed Rebekah at Willow Elementary School to build power and connections between parents, staff, and GCC. In total, Rebekah spoke to over 25 parents, staff, and professionals on concerns they had related to Willow and how these concerns could be addressed by the district. Her work contributed toward the Listen. Act. Win action that brings parent and staff concerns together in a public meeting with Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s CEO, Mr. Eric Gordon. Lastly, Rebekah researched parent engagement at Willow Elementary School and in Cleveland Metropolitan School District and prepared a policy brief on actions that can be taken to improve involvement in the district. Rebekah’s hope is that her work can help better inform changes at Willow and improve the academic success of students.