Tracy Bellum, a sophomore at Cuyahoga Community College, is a community leader and advocate. She partnered with the Cleveland food bank three years ago to start a food pantry at the Andrew J. Rickoff School where she works. The food bank provides thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables to the schoolchildren, their families and the surrounding community annually, positively impacting several hundred individuals. Ms. Bellum is also the community partner between Andrew J. Rickoff School and the Kulture Kids program. She engaged the schoolchildren to plant and maintain a garden with community families during spring and summer 2017, building wonderful relationships and leading to a harvest of flowers and vegetables in the fall. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District recognized Ms. Bellum's efforts with their Communicate with H.E.A.R.T award in 2017.
Ms. Bellum is also part of a Habitat for Humanity beautification project benefitting several Cleveland neighborhoods. She supervises youth in these projects, helping them build life skills and a sense of pride in their communities. For these efforts, the Women Making Decisions Now organization in Cleveland recognized Ms. Bellum as their Outstanding Humanitarian of the Year in 2017.
I became involved in civic engagement after our family experienced a financial hardship. My goal was to take care of my family by utilizing as many community resources as possible. After researching these resources and living through my circumstances, I realized that there is much available support for families in need, but many do not know it exists. I have made it my mission to educate and inform adults and families of these valuable resources.
As my own children were growing up, I realized the lack of guidance many other children face and the importance of "community" for the youth in our neighborhoods. Over the years, I have encouraged, supported, guided, and empowered many children to their own success. This started with craft projects on my front porch, starting first with my three children and eventually growing to 20 neighborhood youth. This led to taking large groups of children to free dinners at the community center and much more. I believe that, by keeping our youth active, it gives them a sense of worth in their community while also providing skills and building relationships that lead to opportunities they otherwise may have never had.