Alumni spotlight: Toi Comer

Toi Comer (CBB 2015)
Vice President and Executive Director, City Year Cleveland

Toi Comer for Crain’s Cleveland Business Women of Note project on Thursday, June 20, 2019 at Pixelate Studios.

Why did you get involved with CLC?
I decided to get involved with the Cleveland Leadership Center to invest in my pursuit of continuous learning and development as a professional who aspires to be a change agent in the Cleveland community. Being a part of CLC allows me the opportunity to engage with a great network of professionals from diverse backgrounds and industries to build awareness of key issues that affect our community and understand how we individually and collectively can make a difference.

What were you hoping to get out of it?
I hoped it would help me become more of a purposeful leader who believes in the power of all people to make great systemic change in the Cleveland community.  I am fascinated by a quote from businessman Kenneth W. Thomas, who states “Make sure you’re not just waiting for someone else to fix things, or hoping that things will improve…Figure out what’s going on and make a plan to improve things.” I am committed to do my part in not just seeking to understand key issues affecting our community, but being an active participate in pursuit of a resolve – where we can continue to bridge the gap of complexities and inequities within our community to be a beacon of hope for all.

How was your program experience?
My Cleveland Bridge Builders program (CBB) experience was rewarding.  I met some exceptional individuals who care about this Cleveland community and who want to be a part of building and sustaining a better place where we work, live and play.

My participation has also transcended into me being an active member of the CBB Scholarship Committee.  I look forward to continuing to deepen my involvement with CLC.

What have you accomplished – or helped others accomplish since your CLC experience? What are you proud of? How did CLC contribute to that success?
Since my time with CBB, I have become the Vice President and Executive Director of City Year Cleveland. It is a rewarding experience because it allows me to be a part of the change I wish to see in the lives of our young people – and that is the ability to dare to dream and find their voice.

City Year is a national education focused nonprofit that works with young idealists, AmeriCorps members ages 18-25 to help students stay in school and on track to graduation through high school and college and prepare them for career success. They serve students by focusing on attendance, behavior, and coursework through in-class tutoring, mentoring, and afterschool programs.

Our program has recruited 76 AmeriCorps members who serve over 3,000 students in Cleveland partnering schools.  Schools we serve have experienced increases in Math and Reading proficiency rates. Greater outcomes are demonstrated in longer-standing partnerships, as relationships and alignments deepen and City Year becomes integrated in each school’s culture and structure.

In addition to the quantitative achievements we’ve experienced, the qualitative achievements are just as important that I am proud of.  I recall a conversation I had with a third grader about what she wanted to be when she grew up.  She said, “I want to be a basketball player.”  I said WOW, that’s awesome!  You know what, I can also see you as the owner of that team.  She said, I can do that? This is another one of my greatest achievements – a collection of stories conversing with our young people and helping them to dare to dream in helping them realize other opportunities that they may not be exposed to. Also, I am encouraged when I hear students tell AmeriCorps members, “I am going to pretend you are sitting next to me during my test and talk me through the problems like we do together.”

I am a strong believer in the power of young people and disruptive innovation. My CLC experience reiterated the importance of honing into your passion and becoming a stronger service leader.

How has your CLC experience influenced you? How have you changed since then as it relates to the community? How did it change anything about how you do or how you view your job, your profession or Greater Cleveland? What were your relationships and collaborations like before CLC, and since then?
Since my CLC experience, I continue to strive to lead with purpose, perspective, and promise. Purpose in helping to build resiliency, cultivating empathy, and curiosity. Perspective in creating a pathway for constant improvement to achieve better results to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. And Promise in leading with integrity. CLC helped to further my belief in the power of building transformational relationships. Developing a partnership in any relationship is critical. It transcends beyond a transactional exchange, but it nurtures and inspires hope and action to get things done collectively.