AKRON, Ohio – On Friday, Feb. 24, the Vernon L. Odom Fund of Akron Community Foundation awarded $11,500 in grants to programs that promote diversity and enrich the quality of life within local minority communities.

A $1,000 grant to Global Ties Akron will support the Know Your Community – Know Your World program, which introduces students to cultures from around the globe right in their classroom. Students will hear from a wide variety of speakers, including international students, refugees and immigrants living in Summit County. The program will specifically focus on world religions and the diversity of faith that exists in the students’ own communities.

“By sharing the cultural faith traditions present in our community, students and educators will have a better appreciation of local faith communities, their history and their presence in our neighborhoods,” said Michelle Wilson, executive director of Global Ties. Wilson said there are more than 30 different cultures and religions represented in Summit County, which has a rich history of welcoming immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

In addition to learning about the differences among world religions, Wilson said students will discuss the shared ethics and moral principles that unite these cultural groups. They will also tackle common stereotypes and learn about the importance of diversity, inclusion and respect.

Members of the Vernon L. Odom Fund Committee voted unanimously to recommend the grant to Global Ties, saying it’s critical for children to learn about religious and cultural diversity from a young age.

"This program helps students develop cultural competency and teaches them about the importance of respecting people from all different backgrounds,” said Charles Brown, Akron’s deputy mayor for public safety and a member of the fund’s advisory committee. “These kinds of lessons will impact students for the rest of their life.”

Other grants this year will prepare minority youth for college, introduce inner-city children to organic farming and gardening, and help African-American fathers develop closer relationships with their children.

The following is a full list of Vernon L. Odom Fund grants:

Akron Community Service Center and Urban League, to help children from low-income families attend the Akron Urban League Summer Enrichment Day Camp, which builds students’ skills in reading, math and the arts through educational programs and field trips, $1,000

Akron Inner City Soccer Club, for a year-round, after-school soccer program for inner-city youth, $1,000

Alchemy Inc., to support mentoring-based workshops for urban adolescents that use storytelling to develop critical thinking skills and self-esteem in at-risk youth, $500

Biostatistics and Research Awareness Initiatives Network Inc., to introduce minority students at Buchtel Community Learning Center to STEM-related careers through hands-on projects involving spatial statistics, data analysis, coding and geography, $1,000

Crown Point Ecology Center, to introduce low-income, minority youth to organic farming and gardening through the 2017 Summer Farm & Science Camp, $500

Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio, to support diversity education programs in Summit County schools that empower students to combat bigotry and racism, $1,000

Fathers and Sons of Northeast Ohio, to train men in Summit County to become mentors for at-risk fathers who are facing challenges with substance abuse, homelessness and behavioral issues, $500

Global Ties Akron, to teach fifth- and sixth-grade students about religious diversity by bringing international speakers into the classroom, including refugees and immigrants living in Summit County, $1,000

Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio, to support entrepreneurship and job readiness programs for students at Helen Arnold Community Learning Center, $1,000

Law and Leadership Institute, for a college preparatory program that helps at-risk and minority youth graduate from high school, get accepted into college, and choose a professional career path, $1,000

Let’s Grow Akron Inc., to support community gardens and beautification sites in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food and green space, $500

Proyecto Raices, to support programming for Hispanic children in Greater Akron that celebrates their cultural traditions while engaging them in educational and artistic activities, $500

South Street Ministries, to support community engagement initiatives for residents in the Summit Lake neighborhood, $500

University of Akron Foundation, to support a workshop that introduces African-American middle school students in Akron Public Schools to STEM-related careers, $1,000

Williams Challenge, for a fatherhood education and mentoring program that gives at-risk and absent fathers the support they need to develop positive relationships with their children, $500