1971-2007 – Our Foundation
In the late 1960s and early 1970s neighborhood parents and grandparents started seeking a way to address the dropout crisis in Lower Price Hill. At the time, an alarming 98% of local students dropped out of school and completely disengaged from formal education. In the face of this reality, several residents came together to start offering tutoring for the young adults who dropped out. They gathered around kitchen tables and family rooms to build new opportunities together and create a solution to a need.
In 1971, community leaders and local non-profit advocates decided to formalize these efforts to educate the community and formed the Lower Price Hill Community School as a 501c3 non-profit organization. The Community School, as it was commonly called, challenged the assumptions about high school dropouts by offering a new path forward in education. The School started in a dimly lit room in the basement of the Saint Michael Church in Lower Price Hill with one full-time AmeriCorps volunteer and a group of volunteers.
By 1982, the Community School had already helped more than 150 people earn their General Equivalency Diploma (GED) through tutoring that was free and open to all. With a growing student body, the School moved out of the basement of the Church and into the third floor of the former Saint Michael School Building. In this larger space, we began offering free childcare and expanded our one-on-one tutoring to meet the needs of students through personal guidance and by removing barriers to education.
In the 1980s the School leadership decided to also challenge the notion that high school dropouts could not go on to college. We partnered with Xavier University to bring college courses into the community and open the doors to higher education in Lower Price Hill. The college access component later evolved through a strong partnership with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
2007-2011 – Restoration
From 1971 to 2007, a two-man team, Jake Kroger and Tom Stegmaier, and a group of AmeriCorps volunteers led the Community School. In 2007, the long-time leaders passed the torch to a new leader, Jen Baker. Soon after the leadership change in 2008, many exciting changes took shape as we transitioned from being tenants of one floor to owners and stewards of the entire former Saint Michael Church complex.
In the same year, we assumed responsibility for the food pantry and thrift store that had been operated by a group of former Saint Michael parishioners. The community expressed a strong desire for these services to remain open, and therefore, we incorporated them into our mission to meet community needs. During the period from 2007 to 2010, our student enrollment doubled in size as we went from serving 250 students per year to 500 students in 2010.
In 2011, we were awarded the opportunity to receive state and federal historic and new market tax credits to completely renovate our campus. Before we began to raise funds for this unique opportunity, we first evaluated our place within the community and sought extensive input on our future planning. The community expressed a clear consensus on our role as the stewards of this historic community landmark (our five-building campus) and as champions of education in Lower Price Hill. With this charge, we began fundraising $2 million of private funds to leverage with the tax credits.
Read the history of the historic Saint Michael Church complex here.
2012-2021 – Growth and Expansion
In 2013, we completed our private fundraising goals and construction began on our complex in Lower Price Hill. The renovation included a complete restoration of all five buildings to preserve the structures, improve functionality, and increase efficiency. Construction was completed in August 2015.
In February of 2014, the Urban Appalachian Council (UAC), a community-based organization, closed its doors. After seeking community input, we decided to continue the GED program that UAC had operated in East Price Hill. We assumed ownership of the property on Warsaw Avenue and formed a partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools’ ASPIRE to continue this program.
With the new opportunities presented with our renovation and the changing needs of the surrounding communities, we began a comprehensive planning process to determine how we should move forward as an organization. Since the beginning, our organization has always remained focused on community-centered growth and development. We want to always keep this focus and drive our decisions from community energy and ideas.
With this in mind, we decided it was time to re-name our organization to reflect our current reality and to better serve the greater community. In June 2014, Lower Price Hill Community School was reborn as Education Matters in order to fully capture our identity and reimagine the original principle set by the parents and grandparents seeking change in the 1970s—that education matters.
Founding Community Matters
With the ability to effectively use our entire campus in Lower Price Hill, we decided to branch our community-based programs into a new non-profit organization. In 2014, we formed Community Matters to carry on our mission to remove barriers to opportunity in our community.
In 2016, Mary Delaney, former Vice President of Education Matters and one of the founders of Community Matters, became Executive Director of both organizations. This transition allowed for a shared strategic vision for Education Matters and Community Matters moving forward. During this time, the work of both organizations grew.
Education Matters solidified itself as a premier adult education program in the Greater Cincinnati area. Our staff worked to further remove barriers to education by partnering with local employers to offer on-site classes, offering options for remote learning, and adding a GED testing center to our campus.
Community Matters saw a rapid expansion of its work through partnering with neighbors to develop ideas and tackle challenges. Alongside our neighbors, Community Matters expanded the food pantry into a choice, market-like model; started the Opportunity Hub program to partner with families on their long-term goals; launched the Washing Well as a first-ever social enterprise laundromat; and started the revitalization of buildings for affordable, high-quality housing.
In 2022, the leadership of Education Matters and Community Matters decided to unite the organizations under a single entity to further strengthen our missions. The newly merged entity, Community Matters, will continue to exist to create a thriving and more just community by removing barriers to opportunity. Community Matters incorporates all of the history and innovations of Education Matters and Community Matters into a comprehensive impact model.
Our work centers on four pillars identified by our neighbors: family sustainability, education pathways, resident leadership, and thriving community. To learn more about our model and our programs, visit the How We Work section.