Building Common Ground: Michele Elba’s Common Ground conversations focus on education and inspire action

A table with dishes left over from a Common Ground meal

Common Ground, a celebration of community conversation, brings people across Northeast Ohio together each year to talk about topics that matter to them and their communities. With support from the Cleveland Foundation and our partners, people and organizations across Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties sign up to host events of their own creation and invite people to share in forward-looking conversations. As we prepare for Common Ground’s 5th anniversary celebration, which will kick off July 16, 2021, we’re sharing the stories of people who have participated as Common Ground hosts in years past.

Michele Elba has hosted Common Ground conversations for the past three years, and the common thread across her events has been a focus on education. “My focus has always been education and trying to ensure all students receive the same quality, affordable education the state of Ohio has to offer,” said Michele.

Last year, her event focused on the census and its impact on public education. People of all ages and backgrounds took part, including a school principal, students, teachers, grandparents, parents and people from the community. The beauty of Common Ground is not only in the shared connections and relationships forged during the events, but also in the ripple effects that spread far beyond the conversation table. “We discussed the importance of people completing the census and how the dollars will be spent in the communities – especially the urban communities,” said Michele. “There was a student in the group who discussed how he was going to spread the word through his social media and how he never realized the importance of completing such things.”

In years past, Michele focused her Common Ground event on the topic of state testing and its impact on public school districts. Participants talked about the State of Ohio’s third-grade reading guarantee, how to help students prepare for state testing as well as the importance of being prepared for life after graduation. The conversation went beyond the classroom, with participants talking about the importance of access to nutritious food and healthy sleeping habits to help students succeed. Meaningful actions were taken after the conversations ended. “We even took this topic to the State of Ohio and attended several state hearings to voice the concern of public education and state testing,” said Michele.

This year, Michele is preparing to host another Common Ground conversation focused on education. “I have and will continue this fight for our students’ education in Ohio,” said Michele.  “We are gearing up this year for anther Common Ground session to have everyone’s voice heard and stand strong in educating our students.”

Are you interested in bringing people together around a topic that matters to you and your community? Learn more about hosting a Common Ground event here. Don’t delay! The deadline to register as a Common Ground host is July 15.

Want to participate in Common Ground as a guest? Explore Common Ground events here and check back often as new events are added in the coming weeks!