In the second year of the award’s existence, Direct Energy and Local 12 honored Michael Farrell as the Cincinnati Volunteer Citizen of the Year for 2014. Farrell is the founder of Against the Grain Scholars, a nonprofit organization in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine community that identifies and supports the hard work and high-quality character exhibited by a small, but determined minority of inner-city school students. These “Against the Grain” Scholars, as they are known, set themselves apart from the majority of their peers by regularly attending school, completing homework, participating in class, following directions, and being respectful to teachers, staff, classmates, family, and others.
In 2011, while teaching in an Over the Rhine-area school, Farrell observed the local nonprofit sector in inner-city Cincinnati and identified an unmet need: most of the attention and available resources were being aimed at underachieving and defiant students. While these efforts are indeed justified, Farrell felt passionately that much more could be done to positively reward, support, and cultivate the small groups of students that were embracing their education and guidance from teachers and mentors, despite the hardships that surround them.
Farrell’s solution was the founding of Against the Grain Scholars in 2012, and thanks to the generosity and support of its community, the organization welcomed its very first scholars that same year. Against the Grain Scholars’ programs are geared to mentor its scholars, as well as to facilitate volunteer opportunities so that its scholars can give back to the community and learn that they can make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Against the Grain Scholars thrives due to Farrell’s dedication and has even been able to enroll three new scholars. Even with maintaining a full-time job, Farrell’s life revolves around helping the scholars and introducing them to every influential opportunity as possible. Over the past 2 years, Against the Grain Scholars have helped homeless animals find their forever homes, distributed food to the less fortunate, picked up trash at local parks, and much more. These initiatives help the scholars build upon their already exceptional foundations and work ethics so that they can return to their neighborhoods to mentor and inspire others.
On Tuesday, March 18th, 2014, a special awards event was held in Michael Farrell’s honor. Against the Grain Scholars were present to support Farrell, and one even read an inspirational poem she wrote about the impact the organization has on her life. By winning the Cincinnati Volunteer Citizen of the Year award for 2014, Farrell will receive a $5,000 donation to Against the Grain Scholars from Direct Energy. The donation will be used to add two more scholars whom are currently on the organization’s waiting list.
Congratulations again, Michael Farrell!
This post was written by Julie Hendry, External Relations Specialist for Direct Energy in Pittsburgh, PA.