By Ed Runyan
The Warren nonprofit organization Inspiring Minds was able this year to double the number of children and young adults it helped with its various educational programs, and it asked those attending its annual gala to help double that number again.
The gala at St. Demetrios Community Center on Saturday was attended by more than 500 people and included awards to the organization’s biggest supporters and a $7,500 check presentation by General Motors workers.
For people such as Patsy Kouvas, there’s no question that the 7-year-old program meets a critical need to help underserved youths get the confidence, skills and experiences that will allow them to achieve scholarships, educational goals and careers.
“I notice that so many of our kids have so many things to overcome,” she said. “In order for them to compete out in this world, it seems like they don’t have that opportunity that other kids do. What Inspiring Minds does is give that opportunity.”
Kouvas, vice chairman of AVI Foodsystems of Warren, has worked with students in the Inspiring Minds high school program for 41/2 years.
“They gain in self-confidence and just go up to someone they don’t know and introduce themselves and know they are accepted,” she said.
Inspiring Minds provides after-school and summer enrichment programs for Warren youths.
Deryck Toles, founder and executive director of Inspiring Minds, provided those in attendance with some quotes from Warren students who were asked what they wished for.
“I wish I had some help with my homework,” one said. “I wish I knew that my friends would all get supper every night,” another said. “I wish I could do more things with my friends,” another said.
In every case, Toles said, there’s a program that addresses these needs at Inspiring Minds, and envelopes given to everyone in attendance showed an equivalent Inspiring Minds program that addresses that need.
“You have an opportunity to make a wish come true,” Toles said.
Toles said one of the reasons young people say they wish they could do more with their friends is that there are few opportunities for young people to do constructive recreational activities in Warren.
“When are we going to give them the opportunity to do the right things?” Toles said. “That’s on us.”
One presentation was about the We Are Warren survey that Inspiring Minds helped to carry out this winter with funding from the Raymond John Wean Foundation.
The group of students and parents working on the survey already started a new basketball league. The project also received funding and is preparing to start volleyball and flag-football programs for the summer.
Stanley Elkins, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor who works with juveniles, said one of the things he’s always liked about Inspiring Minds is that it takes young adults on college visits, some of them many states away from Warren.
“I’m a big fan of that [college visits] and the opportunity to interact with businesses in the community,” Elkins said.
Shawna’ King, who was in the first class of students to enter Inspiring Minds in 2006, was one of two masters of ceremonies.
She will graduate in December from Alabama A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She has completed internships at NASA during the summers of 2012 and 2013.
“I think the program really helps someone achieve their dreams,” she said. “It makes sure you focus on school and helps in your weak areas.”