Isabel Slonneger
Isabel Slonneger
(Bridgette Gootee / United Way of Greater Cincinnati)

Moira's Message: A Celebration of Teens' Academic Success with HEMI's Help

With the help of our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI), 18 students overcame adversity and received nearly $60,000 in scholarships.
June 21, 2021

UPDATED: February 16, 2022

June 21, 2021

Dear friends,

Our Higher Education Mentoring Initiative Scholars of Excellence Celebration, held just a few days ago, was a truly inspirational event.

Eighteen students received nearly $60,000 in scholarships. Smiles were as wide as the event hall at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


Group photo of HEMI students honored on June 17, 2021.


These teens overcame a great deal of adversity on their path to academic success. Living their high school years in foster care, they hurdled obstacles their peers didn’t face. They certainly deserved the special celebration recognizing their excellence.

The HEMI program pairs mentors with foster children to help them graduate high school and move on to some post-graduate education, whether it be college, trade school or the military. With a mentor’s help, HEMI youth learn the value of education and stay on track to achieving academic goals and setting themselves up for a better life.


When I started HEMI back in 2009, nights like the Scholars Celebration are exactly what I had in mind. At that time, I was director at Hamilton County Job and Family Services, charged with caring for our county’s foster children. I read of a program similar to HEMI in California and thought we could replicate it here. I had seen many kids so worried about a roof over their head or where their next meal would come from that they didn’t have time to think about college. For many, no one ever even discussed the possibility with them.

Thursday night was special, as were the previous celebrations. Not only did these young people see their dreams come true with their hard work culminating in a scholarship, I got to see my dream come true once again.

Moira Weir

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