Alumni return to their roots

Allison Byrd

Many Heights graduates go away to great things, but many come back:

Steven Haynie '91 always had fond memories of Cleveland Heights even when his family moved to Cincinnati after he finished fourth grade. Indeed, after eighth-grade he asked to move back to attend Heights High. “It was almost as if I had never left,” says Haynie. “I walked through the doors and so many people came over to say hello.” He went on to study mass communication at the University of Cincinnati (“Dick Goddard was my idol”) but his career path took a major turn when he took part in the summer re-shelving program at the university’s library. “Library Science became my new love,” he says.

He obtained a Masters in Library Science at SUNY Buffalo, did an internship for the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda Maryland, and then landed back in Cleveland. “It was a twist of fate,” he says. “I was coming back to Cincinnati for a job but had to stop in Cleveland to attend a funeral and ended up getting a volunteer job doing out reach with elementary to high school-age youngsters.” “I guess I always knew this was home –where I wanted to grow old and raise my kids.” Today he is the young adult services coordinator at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.

The CH-UH Public Library has welcomed teens by designating a space called the Spot (open from 2 to 5:30 p.m.), hosting the annual Poetry Slam, helping teens with homework, and developing intergenerational programs. Haynie observes that “for every one kid who isn’t behaving, there are 10 who are busy doing homework and taking part in programs.”

He is looking for volunteers to mentor the teens that come to the Spot. “Retirees or college students can help build these important relationship bridges between generations.” Interested? Contact him at 932-3600 x292 or

Allison Byrd '95 went through the CH-UH school system—Belvoir, Wiley, and Heights. In her sophomore and junior years at Heights she worked as a junior instructor for the IMOTEP program (Instructional Mathematics Helping Our Teens Excel Program), the brainchild of Heights’ math teacher Mark Wessels. It was this experience that inspired her to become a math teacher. She graduated from Florida A & M with a BS in mathematics.

Like many alumni who leave for college, she was sure she would only come back for visits. She was teaching in Tallahassee when she received a call from Wessels. Was she interested in teaching for the exapnding IMOTEP program? In 2000 the onetime National Merit and Presidential Scholar found herself back at her alma mater. “IMOTEP had been such an important part of my life that it just felt natural to come back to Cleveland, to work with the program and teach math,” Byrd says. She became involved in the recent transformation to five Small Schools and attended the First Ring Leadership Academy at Cleveland State where aspiring administrators could earn a Masters in Education Administration in non traditional situations.

Today she is the assistant principal at Roxboro Middle School. She admits to missing teaching at times. “Teaching is special. You can see the moment when your students get it, the instant when you know you have made a difference.” Alison credits her appreciation of education to the support and motivation of her family and Wessels. “They never expected anything but the best from me and believed in me even when I didn’t.” This is the message that she now brings to her job every day, because “you never know what type of impact you will have on a child.” Like many graduates, she found that moving away led to an appreciation of what Cleveland has to offer. Reach her at

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Lita Gonzalez, a long time community volunteer, lives in Cleveland Heights with her husband Mark. Both her daughters are Heights High graduates.
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Volume 1, Issue 9, Posted 8:45 PM, 11.19.2008