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Steven Lake pays it forward, helps Cleveland students thrive in college and beyond

Steven M. Lake, Ed.D. (BA ’01, M.Ed. ‘03) has built his professional career by paying forward the boost he got as an undergraduate student at Cleveland State University. As the first in his family to attend college, Lake enrolled in a program CSU offered at the time to ease his transition to college with summer college-prep coursework, dedicated mentoring, and access to an on-campus job. That program became his home base throughout college and was, he says, what “put [him] on his pathway to success.” 

Now, as the executive director of Cleveland’s new Thrive Scholars, Lake is poised to offer a similar boost to as many as 50 promising Cleveland-area students per year. Part of a 20-year-old national organization with other offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, Thrive Scholars helps high-achieving, low-income, underrepresented students of color get into and graduate from top colleges, equipped to achieve their full career potential. 

As Lake puts it, “All we’re trying to do as an organization is level the playing field so that underrepresented populations have a fair shot at success. It’s really about building wealth and opportunity to end the cycle of generational poverty.”

The Thrive Scholars program provides six years of personalized support for students, beginning their junior year in high school, lasting through four years of college, and ending with career preparation and counseling. The five key areas of support include expert college counseling, two summers of intensive pre-college academic preparation, social/emotional counseling, financial support and four years of career preparation. 

The Thrive Scholars model works. Proof is in the successful outcomes of Thrive alumni: 90% of Thrive Scholars attend a top-100 college, with 40% enrolling in an Ivy League school. They outperform students with similar backgrounds, and also outperform their more privileged peers at the same top colleges—they’re 10% more likely to graduate and 15% more likely to persist in STEM fields.  

Though Thrive Scholars is a national organization with a proven track record, the Cleveland office is still effectively in startup mode. Fortunately, Lake has a strong local network and previous experience in education and workforce development to draw on. Having worked at NewBridge Cleveland, Cleveland Transformation Alliance and Cuyahoga Community College, Lake is parlaying that experience into building his board, enlisting corporate participation and launching the Thrive Scholars services for an up-and-coming cohort of promising young Cleveland scholars.

Lake maintains his connection with CSU by serving on the Visiting Committee for the College of Sciences and Health Professions. He credits the university for much of his success saying, “CSU helped mold me and create me. When I was an undergrad, I got to be president of the Student Government Association for two years, and that experience of professional growth as a young person really helped shape me. My mentors at CSU steered me towards education and education just became a life passion for me.”

Also in this Issue...

New president of alumni association board takes reins

Lauren Rudman (MLRHR '08) hopes to help cultivate deeper alumni relationships with the university.

New leader of alumni relations seeks greater engagement

Anne-Marie Connors joined CSU as the associate vice president of alumni relations and corporate engagement and executive director of the CSU Alumni Association back in April. 

Business prof’s top podcast seeks to create better workplaces, one listener at a time

Aside from his work as an associate professor of management at CSU, published scholar, consulting firm co-owner and U.S. Navy Reserve captain, Ben Baran, Ph.D. also finds time to connect with his rapidly growing audience as co-host of “The Indigo Podcast: An Exploration of Human Flourishing at Work and Beyond.”

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Cleveland State University Alumni Association
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