Congratulations to Accelerate 2015 civic pitch presenters

Twenty-five individuals shared their civic visions at "Accelerate 2015: A new model for change," presented by Bernie Moreno Companies and Cleveland Leadership Center. Their creative, innovative ideas to accelerate positive change in the community sparked incredible levels of excitement and energy among more than 450 attendees at the event, held on February 25, at the Global Center for Health Innovation.

Panels of community leaders selected one finalist from each of five categories to pitch to the full audience, which voted by cell phone on an overall winner - the idea they felt could make the best impact on the community. The top winner was to receive $5,000 in seed funding and the four runners-up were to each receive $2,000. But Bernie Moreno took the stage and increased the prizes to $5,000 for each finalist. All will also be mentored by CLC alumni who will help make their vision a reality.

Details of all the pitches are below. Let them inspire you to be a part of the change. If any of the ideas below capture your imagination and excitement, please offer them your time, advice, connections or financial resources to help them along. And then dream up your own ideas to bring transformative change to CLE - and pitch them next year at Accelerate 2016!

The winning pitch, in the Economic Development category, was presented by Matthew Fieldman, who wants to create Cleveland Codes: Bringing Software Development to Low-Income Populations.

The runners-up are:

  • Bob Sferra, LGBT Youth Culinary Creation (Community Change).
  • Mollie Verdier, Therapals: Pay it Forward Approach to Learning (Educating for Tomorrow).
  • Shanina Knighton, Clean Hands Means Quality of Life (Quality of Life). 
  • Chris Webb, If These Walls Could Talk (Transformative Arts and Culture).

Thanks for accelerating CLE!

Quick links to each category below: Community Change, Economic Development, Educating for Tomorrow, Quality of Life, Transformative Arts and Culture


Community Change

Rust Belt Riders: Pedal-Powered Community Composting

BrownRoughly 40% of all food grown in the United States is wasted, this at a time when one in six Americans struggle with hunger. These systems need to change and the systems that combat inefficiencies need to be supported. Community composting offers everyone a way to fight waste and support a new food system. 

Daniel Brown, Economic Opportunity Fellow, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Social media: @RustBeltRiders |


Project Parklet

Hollock & WagnerA parklet is a re-imagination and re-use of parking spaces, excess pavement and unused lots through small, cost-efficient and aesthetically appealing seating and landscaping. Collaboration among community members is critical. Parklets contribute to the landscape and character of our neighborhoods and will inspire communities with small successes to spur further development. 

Whitney Hallock & Caroline Wagner
Social media: @wtnyhllck


ReForest City: Trees for Community Health and Engagement

MarksReForest City engages residents to plant trees on private property in Cleveland and its inner-ring suburbs. We will use the Accelerate 2015 grant to target a few low-income neighborhoods, bringing neighbors together to plant trees so the next generations can enjoy a shady, healthy, vibrant community. 


Laura Marks, Owner/Landscape Designer/Community Organizer, ReForest City



Walk it Out: Encouraging Community Engagement

Lynn OttrixMy initiative encourages members of the community to replace driving with walking for one day. The goal is to explore your neighborhood and get to know your neighbors. This encourages the police to get involved and get to know the people they serve and protect. Establishing these relationships minimizes tension and builds trust.  

Courtney Lynn Ottrix, Marketing Manager, Global Cleveland
Social media: @courtneyLynnc |


LGBT Youth Culinary Creation



To attain seed money to be used for continuation and expansion of the current and future LGBT Youth Program Culinary classes. These classes allow an otherwise disenfranchised LGBT youth population to learn skills, build self-esteem, and possibly gain a mentor.


Bob Sferra, Chef/Owner, Bob Sferra Culinary Occasions
Social media: @bobsferraco |


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Economic Development

Big Data in the CLE


DeAloiaCleveland has the asset base (fiber, data center, talent) to be a national player in the big data industry. I will detail the state of the big data industry in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio and then pitch for a point-person to help shape the industry, plan for growth, and become a zealous advocate for this high-growth industry.

Michael C. DeAloia, Chief Evangelist, Designing Interactive
Social media: @techczarcle |


CLE Startup Crawl

EbelThe CLE Startup Crawl will become an annual tour of Cleveland's startup community. Co-working spaces and local startups open their offices to the public for a meet and greet, to share pitches and to demo products. Shuttles are provided to take participants among destinations. The Crawl's goal is to connect and grow Cleveland's startup community.

Daniel Ebel
Social media: @angrydanebel


Cleveland Codes: Bringing Software Development to Low-Income Populations


FieldmanWith over 500 openings for software developers and coders, Cleveland desperately needs more tech talent. At the same time, for-profit software boot camps have become all the rage. Through philanthropy and social enterprise, Cleveland Codes brings long-term careers in software coding to Cleveland’s underprivileged populations.

Matthew Fieldman, VP of External Relations, MAGNET
Social media: @mattfieldman |


Limitless Ambition: Giving Women the Tools They Need

RobinsonLimitless Ambition’s mission is to empower women from economically deprived areas with tools to excel academically, pursue their career goals, and overcome emotional obstacles. Our main goal is to eliminate poverty by offering programs with a holistic approach to give women the tools they need to succeed.

Alicia Robinson, Program Coordinator, Kent State University Women's Center
Social media: @ll_ambition |

Tapping the Potential of Ohio Hops

SubwickMy pitch is to advance the production of hops in Cleveland and call attention to its potential economic impact by starting a small-scale hops operation to record data and conduct workshops.


Daniel Subwick, Housing Inspector, City of South Euclid
Social media: @danielsubwick |



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Educating for Tomorrow

The Cool School Rap Comic: STEM Curriculum in Comic Form


BaillettThe Cool School Rap is an educational comic series that breaks down complicated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum into a highly visual, easy-to-read format. I am creating lesson plans to deliver content and guide educators and students through inquiry/project-based learning. I plan to also create an animated series and interactive website.

Laura L. Balliett, Middle School Math and Science Teacher, Lakewood City School District
Social media: @CoolSchoolRap |


Warrensville Heights Schools Parent Partners Program


BeardWhat do you do when your school district is almost last on every list? Forget about Superman and activate community engagement. The Parent Partners Program will encourage individuals to volunteer as official partners for single-parent families and fill the gap when parents cannot participate. Additional elements include rallies, tutoring, speakers and workshops.

Rochelle Beard, Owner, Magnolia Dreams
Social media: @rlb1015 |

Flight Club

KarellFlight Club teaches underprivileged youth in Cleveland the basic concepts of flight, mechanics and engineering. We use simple yet fun and engaging lessons followed by assisted, hands-on construction of the student’s very own quadcopters. We aim to increase interest in STEM fields among youth who would never have this opportunity.

Justo Karell, Assistant Researcher, Case Western Reserve University
and Evan Harris, CWRU student



Therapals: Pay it Forward Approach to Learning

VerdierTherapals is an online therapeutic approach to using video modeling for children with special needs. It provides a social platform to promote friendship, practice social skills and encourage peer-to-peer learning and teaching with children of similar abilities across the world through a Skype-like technology.

Mollie Verdier, CEO/Founder,
Social media: @therapals |


Hackerrarium: An Open-access Maker Space

WimerOur vision at Hackerrarium is to provide courses for students and design space for hobbyists. Due to the cash-strapped education sector failing to keep up with the rapidly changing technology industry, there is a need for an environment where new techniques in design and development can be taught at a low cost to all students and professionals alike.

Jon Wimer, Android Developer, Beacon Software
Social media: @MrEngineer13 


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Quality of Life

Cleveland Urban Adventure Outdoor Recreation

JohnsonIf cities are going to be the place to “be” then they must have “things” to do. Cleveland Urban Adventure Outdoor Recreation would seek to provide and improve recreation activities in the Flats. Now is the time for leaders to invest and support development of an innovative urban playscape that will be accessible to all and provide exposure and encourage healthy lifestyles among residents.

Eric L. Johnson, Government/Compliance Specialist, Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority
Social media: Cleveland



Clean Hands Means Quality of Life

KnightonOne out of every 25 patients obtains a healthcare-associated infection. Hand hygiene is the single most important way to prevent infection. I will provide the first bedside patient-controlled hand sanitation dispenser with an antimicrobial coating and usage frequency reminder, requiring no staff assistance or bulky packaging.

Shanina Knighton, Ph.D. Student, BN, Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Social media: @shaninaknighton


Ohio City Clean Up and Green Up Day

RobertsWe have scheduled the first Ohio City Clean Up and Green Up Day for May 9, 2015. When the snow melts in the spring our neighborhood is covered with trash and dirt. I am working with Ohio City, Inc. to organize a group of neighborhood volunteers to clean up Ohio City and make our community look great for summer.

Steve Roberts, Senior Vice President, Empire Valuation Consultants, LLC
Social media: @OhioCitytweets, #OhioCityCleanupDay |


21st Century Service Delivery

ShuckahoseeFor 40 years, Cleveland Tenants Organization has served residents in Cuyahoga County through phone counseling and outreach. However, another method exists that alleviates problems with tenancy. This innovative approach to service delivery is a web and mobile app that allows expeditious triage of concerns that affect the quality of life in rental housing.  

Angela Shuckahosee, Executive Director, Cleveland Tenants Organization
Social media: @ashuck33, @CleTenantsOrg



Revivalist In Residence


StoryA pilot fellowship launch in Collinwood that aims to actively believe in and support one to three individuals of specific civic passions with living and work space.


Jack Storey, Founder, Saving Cities
Social media: @jackstorey |



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Transformative Arts and Culture

Muse: Create it All, Create Yourself


ArnoldMuse is a creative studio environment for youth that will form a community to help and restore communities we came from. Providing peers willing to teach, travel and mentor youth, Muse will provide verbal support and physical help. Muse will supply a cooperative brand with a strong frontier of open-minded intelligent youth who will teach one another and influence a nation from Cleveland.

Anna Arnold, Sales Associate, T-Mobile
Social media: @wesanniMuse 


A Celebration of Words: A Literary Unconference in the City

Chilcote & RosenbluthA Celebration of Words, a one-day event that will offer writing workshops, classes, talks, readings and performances, will be a literary “unconference” in the heart of the city. Its purpose is to foster and nourish the city’s literary community, expose youth and adults to writing and reading, and use the literary arts as a tool for social, economic and community development.

Lee Chilcote, Freelance Writer, Freshwater Cleveland/Issue Media Group
and Amy Rosenbluth
Social media: @leechilcote |


The Turkish Art of Marbling

GurerI would like to bring and promote the Turkish art of marbling (EBRU) in Greater Cleveland. EBRU is a form of historical art technique, which is still a custom throughout the world. My goal is to introduce this art and hold workshops to educate the community and eventually host a museum exhibition. We have great artists and it will be a pleasure for me to arrange and facilitate this form of art.

Murat Gurer, Executive Director, Niagara Foundation
Social media: @Murat_CLE


Bring Crime 2 Cleveland


Michaels & Jones My pitch is for a crime web/TV series to shoot in the real city of Cleveland, Ohio. While real crime hurts a region and leaves marks that takes years to heal, our fictional crime series will create jobs, strengthen the economy, and give an outlet to tell stories that can bring us together.

Alex P. Michaels, Studio Chief, Prelude2Cinema LLC
and Peter Lawson Jones, Attorney/Actor/Business Consultant/Former Elected Official
Social media: @prelude2cinema |


If These Walls Could Talk

WebbIf These Walls Could Talk is an urban arts project that engages youth to research and creatively present the history of abandoned properties, as a way of honoring Cleveland’s history, strengthening community identity, and igniting a conversation about the future of the community.


Chris Webb, Creative Designer, Trifyre Social Enterprises
Social media: @chriswebbspeaks |


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