Educator’s Gift Brings Smarts to 69% of Goal

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The arts education program Smarts has reached 69% of goal for its “All in One” campaign, boosted by a $60,000 donation from Dr. Barbara Brothers, former English professor and dean at Youngstown State University.

Representatives of Smarts — Students Motivated by the Arts — unveiled the oversized check representing the lead gift from Brothers in memory of her late husband, Dr. Lawrence Haims, who was part of YSU’s education department for 24 years.

Two music classrooms in Smarts’ space in the Ohio One Building will be named in Haimes’ honor.

“Larry knew before he died that this is what we wanted to do to remember him,” Brothers said. She and her husband were “very fortunate to live in a community” that enabled them to take advantage of the symphonies in Youngstown and Cleveland. In addition to visiting art museums here and abroad, the walls of their home were “lined with art,” she said.

“Larry was a teacher who believed in the education of all children. In addition, he believed that the arts were essential to a meaningful life,” she noted.

The couple supported Smarts since its inception as part of YSU in 1997 and were believers in founder Becky Keck “and her ability to realize our shard vision of Smarts,” Brothers said.

“We’ve seen her energy and her commitment,” she said. After YSU discontinued funding for Smarts in 2013, Keck, executive director, launched the community art education program as a nonprofit independent of the university.

In 12 months, Smarts has raised $517,032 of its $750,000 goal, including Brothers’ gift, reported Greta Mittereder, Smarts spokeswoman.

After the check was unveiled, singer and former Miss Ohio Amanda Beagle – who according to Mittereder worked with “hundreds of Smarts students and does a wonderful Vanna White” — took a strip away from the thermometer hanging behind a window of the Ohio One Building to signify the fundraising campaign’s progress.

The Howland native became involved with Smarts in 2000, coinciding with her decision to compete in the Miss America program. “I wanted to represent a cause that was a worthwhile one but also impacted our community here at home, so I approached Becky about representing Smarts as my community service platform for Miss America,” Beagle said.

Beagle worked with Smarts for more than 10 years as a teaching artist and facilitated music programming and movement classes, as well as creating an original opera program, she said.

Beagle now lives in New York City, where she is pursuing a career in theater and music. “But there’s no place like home, so to always be a voice and a friend to Smarts in any way I can will always be very important to me,” she said.

The funds raised through the All in One campaign will allow Smarts to move fine and performing arts programming into ground floor space in the Ohio One Building downtown, Mittereder said. Smarts now provides programming at school buildings during and after the school day.

“There’s a number of individual classrooms in the back for private learning,” Mittereder said. The Ohio One space, which Ohio One Corp.’s Kathy and Rich Mills “have been so kind to work with us on,” affords room “for all the kids to come together and to reach out to kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have arts education” she said.

The downtown space also exposes youth to “ a new area maybe they don’t come to often,” Mittereder said.

The objective is to meet the fundraising goal and have the space ready to offer classes in early 2017. “The goal is to get the $750,000 as soon as possible,” Mittereder said.

Pictured are (from left) Smarts Circle members Ron Faniro, Christine Rhoades and Nicole Ramson, with Dr. Barbara Brothers, who donated $60,000 to the organization.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.