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Alumni Profile: Active Organizer

Alumni Profile: Active Organizer
By Julie Irwin Zimmerman

Mike Moroski
Bachelor of Arts in English, 2001

Master of Arts in English, 2011
Director of Community Engagement, Community Matters
Cincinnati


Flipping For Good | After graduating with an English degree, Mike Moroski began taking students from Moeller High School to Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood to rehab, or flip, old buildings to create affordable housing. He became deeply enmeshed in reviving the impoverished neighborhood, even opening a non-profit coffee shop. He received Xavier’s Magis Award in 2011.

Moving On | While dean of student life at Purcell Marian High School, Moroski faced an ideological dispute over the issue of same-sex marriage and left the school. He ran for Cincinnati City Council and lost. All the while, he kept watch as Over-the-Rhine gentrified into a neighborhood of pricey restaurants and high-end housing.

Uphill Climb | Moroski turned his sights to the Lower Price Hill neighborhood two miles west of downtown, where he serves as director of community engagement and development at Community Matters. He also emerged as a leading figure in efforts to fight poverty in Cincinnati, serving on multiple boards and organizations.

Research Lab | Lower Price Hill provides an especially useful laboratory for community organizing. In this tiny community of less than 1,200 residents, about half live in poverty, and 40 percent of adults lack a high-school diploma. And the traditionally Appalachian neighborhood has seen an influx of Guatemalan residents.

Unlimited Potential | Moroski sees unlimited potential for Lower Price Hill. “The people in the neighborhood are so hardworking and so proud,” he says. “You can literally wrap your arms around Lower Price Hill, and you can empower the entire community to rebuild itself.”

Nerve Center | The nerve center of Lower Price Hill’s renewal efforts is the former St. Michael the Archangel Church and School, which closed in 1997 and now houses Community Matters and Education Matters, two non-profits dedicated to improving the neighborhood.

Renewal | A $10 million renovation by the two non-profits is creating a food pantry, thrift store, benefits resource center, co-op laundromat and a community space in the old sanctuary. It will also host students from Xavier and other schools for service-learning programs that immerse them in solutions to poverty. Such programs used to be held in Over-the-Rhine, before the pace of redevelopment there picked up.

Come Together | Morowski sees all his past and current work—education, community development, job creation and support for families—coming together in just a few city blocks. “There’s way more potential than obstacles,” he says.  JULIE IRWIN ZIMMERMAN

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