ATGScholars excel through citizenship, responsibility

Cleophis Carson, 16, was Michael Farrell Jr.’s inspiration for founding Against the Grain Scholars, he says.
 
“He’s hitting on all cylinders and is kind of our guinea pig for everything—he’s the oldest,” says Farrell, who came up with the concept of ATGScholars when he was teaching students who were at-risk, but who were excelling in the classroom, were respectful and essentially doing “everything they were supposed to be doing, despite the odds.”
 
To honor those students’ achievements and further their opportunities, Farrell came up with the concept for ATGScholars.
 
“We ended up going in the route of not only providing mentoring and support for the kids, but also facilitating unique volunteer opportunities, because we felt like, here we have this group of kids, always used to being the ones who are being helped, so put them in a position and give them the opportunity to be able to help other people,” Farrell said.
 
When students were first given the opportunity to pick a volunteer experience, they decided to help animals. Through Project Dog Rescue, the students chose one of the SPCA’s “old-timers”—the first time around, it was Zoey—who had been in the shelter for eight months, and found her a home.
 
For Carson, the enjoyment of knowing you helped someone feels good, he says.
 
“What I learned is that when you help and give a dog a home, it makes the dog feel very appreciated—not lonely,” Carson says. [And for those who take the dog in,] “they have added a new member to the family, which will strengthen the bonds between them. “
 
For the group of scholars, which has now grown to eight students, this is just one of the many volunteer experiences they engage in; and compassion for others and servitude are just a couple of the qualities they’re strengthening.
 
Carson, who received a full scholarship to Elder High School after graduating eighth grade at Over-the-Rhine’s St. Francis Seraph, goes to most every ATGScholars’ outing, maintains his GPA, is expected to log more than 150 volunteer hours by the time he graduates high school—about twice the number Elder requires—and he holds down a job at Kroger.
 
“A friend of mine has helped him with financial literacy, saving money, managing money, donating money,” Farrell says. “He donates 10 percent of every paycheck to his church.”  
 
“If you do it, it shows that you’re a nice guy and not selfish with your money and that you don’t spend it all in one place,” Carson says. 

Do Good: 

•    Support ATGScholars by donating.

•    Connect with ATGScholars on Facebook.

•    Contact Farrell if you're interested in mentoring or coming along on one of the ATGScholars' outing.
 

Read more articles by Brittany York.

Brittany York is a freelance writer, adjunct English composition instructor and server at Orchids at Palm Court. She loves travel and photography. Keep up with Brittany on Instagram @brittbrittbrittbrittany.
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