Pastors to March Sunday in Support of East High Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With the start of the school quickly approaching, educators, community leaders, residents and 10 Youngstown pastors will kick off the academic year with a show of support for students at East High School.

Sunday afternoon, The March 4 Hope will begin at Price Memorial AME Church, 920 Dryden Ave. At 1:45 p.m. participants will march from the church at to the high school, 474 Bennington Ave.

Afterward, they will hold a rally in the school gym where the audience is scheduled to hear Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, Youngstown City Schools CEO Krish Mohip and James Joyce, the coach of St. Vincent St. Mary High School in Akron, where he coached LeBron James.

“We want to rally around the kids, not only academically but also in their attitudes, art and athletics,” said Gary Frost, a retired pastor who helped organize the march. “This is a booster experience to support these kids. This is not a protest. It’s an invest.”

The 10 pastors who addressed a press event Wednesday have been regulars at the high school nearly a decade, the principal, Denise Danko, said. They’ve meet with students almost daily, she said, and been a constant source of support.

“We’re all appreciative of their support,” she said. “As a team, we support the efforts of their march and we’re glad to be a part of the march.”

Kenneth Donaldson, pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church, was first invited to visit the school 10 years ago by former principal Henrietta Williams, he said. In the time since, Donaldson, a graduate of The Rayen School, has provided an example of what can be accomplished in the city schools.

“I made it out, went to college and got a few degrees. They need to see someone who looks like them, came from where they came from and came from the same life circumstances,” he said. “It gives them hope for what they want to do.”

By showing up in force on the afternoon before school starts, he continued, it shows the students that there are people who care about them, despite the struggles for control at the top of the system.

“We’re not coming in to scrutinize [the school staff],” he said. “We want to help them. They’re on the front lines. … The people on the front lines are there everyday investing in our kids and they have challenges.”

Frost echoed the sentiment, noting that he and other organizers have met with Mohip several times and come away “excited by what we’re hearing.

“We want to encourage success,” Frost said. “Our children can’t afford another setback and a lot of negotiating about what direction to take. This is the current direction and we simply want to make this work because we can’t afford another failure.”

He continued that he’s seen disillusionment among parents and students alike throughout the debate over the Youngstown Plan, which put the city school system under the control of a state-appointed CEO.

“It’s confusing trying to understand the dynamics,” Frost said. “We’re trying to bring one-on-one direct encouragement to these kids.”

With volunteers always needed to work with students as mentors and role models, all looking to offer their time at East High School are encouraged to attend, if not participate in, The March 4 Hope, Frost and Donaldson said, even if only begin making connections.

Other groups also spend time working with students at East High School. Both clergymen made explicit points throughout the morning that this particular group of pastors is not the only group doing work.

“The march is a community collaborative. It takes a village,” Donaldson said. “We want our community to support what we’re doing and help our kids see that we are behind them.”

Pictured: Rev. Gary Frost.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.