The Strive Story

For decades communities have worked to improve student achievement through a piecemeal set of reforms and siloed set of systems and programs. These efforts have not led to the desired improvements in student achievement, calling for a dramatically different means of supporting student success.

Promoted by community leaders in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, an effort was launched in 2006 to target a problem of being 'program rich and system poor.' This effort, The Strive Partnership, is contributing to improved student outcomes. These successes have been achieved after significant investments of time, talent, and treasure by cross sector community leaders committed prioritizing education for their region. The Partnership engages executive and grassroots partners in the vision, works through turf issues among service providers, and encourages funders to move existing resources to proven strategies.

During its first five years in Greater Cincinnati, Strive noted positive improvements in 40 of the 53 educational outcomes it measured. Consider just a few of these statistics:


There has been a 9% rise in kindergarten readiness. Research shows the importance of beginning as you plan to go on. If a child is ready to learn on the first day of the first year of school, the chances of continued academic success are greatly enhanced.


An 11% increase in high school graduation was achieved. Graduation is not the end of education, but it is an important step towards a successful career and a continued lifetime of learning.


A 10% increase in college enrollment was recorded:  To succeed in the 21st century workforce, post secondary education, either college or technical training, is a must.


The founders of Strive included Nancy Zimpher, then president of the University of Cincinnati, Michael Graham, SJ, president of Xavier University, and James Votruba, president of Northern Kentucky University, along with the superintendents of the Cincinnati, Ohio, and Covington and Newport, Ky., school districts. The founders thus represented the three public school districts at the region’s heart, as well as the region’s three largest teacher training centers. Top executives from several of the area’s major employers and charitable foundations were brought on board, along with directors of civic groups such as the United Way and Urban League.

This was a broad and potent mix of influence and leadership, but it could not have succeeded without a willingness of the partners to set aside individual agendas in favor of a collaborative approach to raising student achievement.  

The Strive partnership in Greater Cincinnati learned several important lessons in achieving its success. Those lessons now are passed on to other organizations joining Strive’s Cradle to Career Network:

  • Strong leadership must be balanced with authentic partner engagement.
  • Shared accountability and shared responsibility must be established early in the process.
  • It is important to engage in strategic planning with education stakeholders from throughout the community.
  • Credibility is built through clear and open communications of the organization’s successes – and its failures.

The strength of the partnership has outlasted the presence of many of the original members. It is the shared vision and dedication of the partnership to a common purpose that continues to propel Strive’s success in Greater Cincinnati.

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