Black & Latino Achievers Program
Black & Latino Achievers Program
1105 Elm St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
P. 513.362.2008
Hotline: 513.362.2081
Director: Karyl Cunningham
Directions: Map



About Black and Latino Achievers  Español  

Strengthening the community by strengthening lives is the heart of what the YMCA is all about. It is the focus of our YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program, one student and one volunteer at a time.

Through the school year, career oriented adults help us engage teens in hands-on learning emphasizing college readiness, career exploration and leadership development. There are workshops, college tours, Toastmasters and more.

Each year hundreds of area students are changing the direction of their life, growing spiritually and intellectually, because they are a YMCA Teen Achiever. Since our Program’s beginning, it has awarded over $200,000 in scholarships, assisted youth with over $4 million dollars in awarded scholarships and engaged more than 4,500 adult volunteers through a network of corporate and community partners.


Meet A Program Volunteer

Ralphfiel Farrar
Senior Recruiting Specialist
Johnson & Johnson Global Recruiting Services
2012 YMCA Achiever

"When I initially volunteered with the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers, I really didn’t know what to expect from the students. I have learned much more than I felt that I taught them. Like many Achievers before me, we take our collective experiences, and collaborate on programs and lessons to share with the students.

I challenged the students to think bigger when they thought about their career aspirations, and provided them industry knowledge, that in some cases their parents would not have. Through the experience, I have learned how to engage this current generation of students and hopefully lit the flame of success and created the “Above Average Attitude.” Having this opportunity to teach, coach, and share career perspectives, has also helped further develop my classroom leadership style, public speaking, and communication skills, turns out we were achieving together.  

I am proud to have been named as an Achiever for the YMCA, and even prouder of the impact, even if it was small, that I had on the 90+ students this year."


Do You Share Our Passion?

We’re looking for Greater Cincinnati career oriented adults with a desire to help us inspire young people to pursue dreams and goals. If you have a few hours to give … or if you know a teen who can benefit from this program…please call Karyl Cunningham at (513) 362-2008 or email


History of Black and Latino Achievers

It all began in 1968. A group of Black staff called the Black and Non-White Y Secretaries (BAN-WYS) was established to work with metro YMCAs to address important concerns of people of color. Two years later, the group was discussing a program designed to motivate African American teens toward academic and career success. First conceived by Quentin Mease, that program was the Young Black Achievers of Houston, Texas. By 1971, the Harlem YMCA branch launched the very first YMCA Black Achievers Salute Gala and Teen Program in the format it is known today – and it quickly spread to branches and associations nationwide, including Greater Cincinnati.

Actually even before Harlem’s program, our Cincinnati staff began cultivating support for such a meaningful and consequential effort. By 1979 it became a reality and our first YMCA of Greater Cincinnati Black Achievers Committee was established. Those special men and women gifted our community with a legacy that will live on for generations.

Today, our Black & Latino Achievers Program is one of the region’s largest programs of its kind, partnering with area organizations and adult role models to inspire and encourage teens of color to pursue post-graduate work, establish careers and give back to a community that helped guide them on their journey.





Teen Achievers  Español

Teen Achievers Student Registration Form  English    Español


Teen Achievers Program

Our YMCA Teen Achievers Program activities focus on study skills/time management, interviewing techniques, financial management, team-building, field trips, community service-learning projects, career assessment and more. It strongly incorporates the Abundant Assets – 40 critical factors for the successful growth and development of young people – and centers around the relationships of adult professional mentors and teens. Learn more about the 40 Abundant Assets here.

At the Y we know that community and corporate involvement are critical to building networks and opportunities for youth. To that end, our program centers on the relationship established between volunteer mentors and youth with an emphasis on career clusters. Clusters are workshops dedicated to specific areas of professional interest. Youth participants and mentors, who are experts in their field, complete projects that are designed to provide students an opportunity to explore their career interests through real-life application of skills. Career clusters include: Arts and Humanities, Business, Communications, Computers, Education, Engineering, Health and Medical, Law and Government, as well as Vocational and Technical disciplines.


Teen Achiever of the Year
Maria Dongo
Senior, Monroe High School/Butler Tech


Maria is one of the hardest workers, always giving 110 percent.  She exhibits a positive attitude at all times, and a desire to succeed.  Born in Lima, Peru, she learned to read at the age of four.  Maria is a senior at Monroe High School Butler Technology Nursing Assistant and Medical Assistant Health Program and has had perfect attendance and been on the honor roll for the past two years. She was so excited to be a part of the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program. She invited her best friend, Yesenia to take part. Since joining the Achievers Program, she has served as Master of ceremonies at the 2011 Teen Summit, and has taken part in the 2012 Achievers kick-off. She has been a teen summit ambassador, active in toastmasters International Youth Leadership Program, and continuously share’s the Achievers’ message, attracting additional teens to participate. She is also an active participant of Skills USA, Student Revolution, varsity track and field, and part of the Toastmasters Organization. Northern Kentucky University is on the top of her list of college choices, where she plans to major in biology. Her passion for excellence and health has led her to pursue a career as a pediatrician.



Robert Cummings
Senior, Shroder High School


Robert is a senior and honor student at Shroder High School.  He is an exceptionally bright and assiduous student ranking number one in his class;  he has consistently made the honor roll each semester since his freshman year.  His extracurricular activities include M.O.R.E., Project Reach, Service Learning Club, Sherrod Brown campaign, Student Council, and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program.  He participated in the summer intern program, Student Intern Academy at the Metropolitan Sewer District.  Robert plans to attend an out-of-state four-year university studying mechanical engineering and dramatic arts.  After he completes his engineering degree, he plans to pursue a career as a roller coaster designer and/or a motion picture director/screenplay writer. Robert plans to own his own theme park.


Jessica Gassett
Senior, Walnut Hills High School


Jessica is a senior at Walnut Hills High School and has embraced her future with confidence and focus.  She has traveled to Japan as a People to People Student Ambassador and has worked with Breakthrough Cincinnati, teaching history to six through ninth grade students over the summer.  Her extra-curricular activities include Mayfestival Youth Chorus, Nordstrom Teen Board, Delta G.E.M.S, and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers.  Jessica wants to be a civil rights attorney.  She plans to attend Howard University for her undergraduate studies and then pursue law school.


Johnathan Avant
Senior, Walnut Hills High School


Johnathan is a senior at Walnut Hills High School where he serves as an ambassador and mentor to incoming students.  As a student attending Walnut Hills, Johnathan takes pride in himself by engaging in school activities. His extra-curricular activities include: president of the Walnut Hills NSBE Chapter, devotion leader for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club, a member of the Spanish Club, the high school band, and the JETS (Junior Engineering Team).  Johnathan wants to pursue a career in the medical or engineering fields, as a biomedical engineer.


Eric Foster, Jr.
Senior, Finneytown High School


A senior at Finneytown High School, Eric has pursued a rigorous college preparatory program since the eighth grade; he has never missed a day of school.  He has participated in various honors programs and received numerous awards including academic awards for his efforts and achievements in the classroom.  Additional activities he participates in are band, soccer (serving as the JV captain), and is an active member of the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program.  Eric will pursue an electrical engineering career after graduating from college.  He has narrowed his choice of colleges to the University of Cincinnati and the Ohio State University.


Lord Frimpong-Manso
Senior, Withrow University High School


Four years ago, Lord and his family, came to the United States from Ghana, which is west of Africa, to further his education and to achieve the American dream.  A senior at Withrow University High School, in the International Baccalaurate Program, he has participated in various activities:  he is a member of the varsity soccer team; African Club; International Dinner; Daisy Chain; Centoz Central, Xavier University; Northern Kentucky University’s Multicultural Leadership Conference; Yoga Life; Mayerson Group Foundation, at the Cincinnati Zoo, sharing the history of African countries; and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program.  He speaks English, Twi, and French. Lord plans to major in computer technology game designing at Northern Kentucky University.


Aleesa Harper
Senior, School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA)


Aleesa is a senior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts majoring in creative writing.  She has grown over the years of struggle in her personal and academic journey. A past member of Uptown Arts, for her talent in art and music, Alessa majored in art, drama, vocal, and instrumental band during her tenure at SCPA. Her academic achievements include: Find Your Voice Award, Excellence in Science, Excellence in English, and Excellence in Creative Writing Award. Aleesa has had her poetry published on three different occasions; Get Up and Try Again was published in the poetic power publication and two poems have been published in Pandora Magazine.  Aleesa’s mom credits the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program for igniting the spark in Aleesa and getting her excited about going to college.   She would like to further her education in forensic science, criminal justice, and psychology.  Aleesa hopes to attend Mercy College in New York after attending Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.


Phayon Alexander Johnson
Senior, Withrow University High School


Phayon is a young man of exceptional character with a quiet approach.  He is a senior at Withrow University High School, taking a rigorous accelerated academic curriculum.  Phayon has maintained his status as an honor roll student throughout his high school career.  His extracurricular activities include football, track and field, M.O.R.E., Project Reach, Cincinnati Museum Center, and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program. Phayon plans to attend Tuskegee University majoring in mechanical or civil engineering.


Seydou Kane
Senior, Withrow University High School


Seydou is a senior at Withrow University High School in the International Baccalaureate Program. His family origin is Mali and the Ivory Coast of Africa.  Seydou ranks eleventh in his graduating class.  His athletic participation includes varsity soccer along with  track and field.  He’s also active in African Club, Daisy Chain, the Annual International Dinner, and the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program.  Seydou also presented at the Cincinnati Zoo.  He has narrowed his choices of colleges to the University of Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky University, pursuing a major in psychology and sports medicine.


Yesenia Sanchez
Senior, Monroe High School/Butler Tech


Yesenia was born in beautiful Medellin, Colombia.  She is a senior at Monroe High School in the competitive Butler Tech Dental Assisting Career Program.   Since she has joined the YMCA Black and Latino Achievers Program, she has received the YMCA Character Award, participated in Northern Kentucky’s Multicultural Leadership Conference, and been a guest of Mari Carmin Barbosa’s live radio broadcast, where she shared with the Hispanic community the benefits of young people getting involved with the Achievers Program.   Yesenia also has served as a Teen Summit Ambassador for the KnowHow2Go College Rally, Achievers Toastmasters International Youth Leadership Program, Salute Gala hostess, and has been a champion in various leadership roles in the Achievers program.  Recently, she was selected to enter Miss Teen Cincinnati, which is a program that builds confidence in young ladies. Yesenia plans to attend Northern Kentucky University majoring in biology with an ultimate goal of earning a degree in orthodontics.


College Readiness and Career Clusters



2013-2014 Achievers Program Schedule of Events

Additional special events and corporate tours will be announced throughout the year.
Questions? Call Karyl Cunningham at (513) 362-2008 or email


35th Annual Salute Gala


The YMCA of Greater Cincinnati Black and Latino Achievers celebrated its 35th annual Salute Gala on Friday, November 1, 2013 at the Sharonville Convention Center, located at 11355 Chester Road.  The event honored local men and women who have served as outstanding role models for young people, encouraging them to pursue college and career goals.  The Salute Gala also recognized three members of our community who have done much to encourage and strengthen our leaders of tomorrow.  The Legend Award winners were:


Leo Calderon, Northern Kentucky University
Charley Frank, Cincinnati Reds Community Fund
Buddy LaRosa, Larosa's

 Special musical entertainment by Emmy Award winning violinist Damien Escobar.

View photos from the 35th annual Salute Gala.






Young people in all socio-economic groups have college aspirations. In fact, eight out of 10 expect to attain a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Department of Education. But despite their aspirations, low-income students and those who are the first in their families to pursue higher education are severely underrepresented on college campuses. Studies show these students often lack the guidance they need to prepare for postsecondary education.

In order to turn these students' college dreams into action-oriented goals, the American Council on Education, Lumina Foundation for Education and the Ad Council launched the KnowHow2GO campaign in January 2007. This multi-year, multi-media effort includes television, radio and outdoor public service advertisements (PSAs) that encourage 8th through 10th graders to prepare for college using four simple steps.

Visit the website:

Each year the YMCA Black andLatino Achievers Program partners with other local youth serving organizations to coordinate a three-hour KnowHow2Go College Rally on downtown Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Included at the event are tables with information about schools, the application process, and financial assistance from about 20 local, regional and national secondary education institutions; and of course, lots of fun entertainment.

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College Goal Sunday


If you or your teen need assistance in planning for a college education, three free local events can help.  On Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 2 p.m., College Goal Sunday will be held at the following locations: Antonelli College, located at 124 East 7th Street in Cincinnati, OH, Chatfield College - Findley Market Location, 1800 Logan Street in Cincinnati, OH, and Oak Hills High School - Media Center, 3200 Ebenezer Road in Cincinnati, OH.

Students attending the upcoming College Goal Sunday should bring the following documents and information to the sessions:

  • Student’s IRS 1040 tax return and W2 form
  • Parents’ IRS 1040 tax return and W2 forms
  • Student’s social security card and driver’s license
  • Additional benefit and income information
  • FAFSA pin number

At College Goal Sunday, financial aid professionals and volunteers from area colleges, universities, and youth programs will be available to answer questions from teens and their parents about preparing for higher education and will also provide help in completing the FAFSA.  To pre-register for College Goal Sunday, visit the website  For questions, call


Karyl Cunningham
Executive Director

Niel Hartman
Program Coordinator

Mario Rodriguez
Program Evaluation Director