Inner City Youth Opportunities’ programs provide at-risk, low income children in grades K – 12 living within the City of Cincinnati limits a safe, nurturing environment to spend after school and summer hours – times when they are typically unsupervised by parents or guardians. There is no charge to any of the families for ICYO programs and services.
The philosophy of the organization is to work with the children all year round to maintain a deeper connection with the children, their families and their schools. ICYO staff and volunteers serve as a consistent, positive role model in these children’s lives, strengthening academic, character development and social skills, and providing motivation and rewards to all participants as they move forward with success. Children are encouraged to participate year-round through the Academic Intervention/Youth Development Programs, Summer Tennis Camp and other Camp Programs, and stay with the organization until they graduate from high school.
Being a part of ICYO means a lot to the children and to their families. As we face these challenging times, more families will need support. Inner City Youth Opportunities gives families peace of mind that their children are receiving homework assistance and academic tutoring, learning new skills, and having fun. ICYO now has second generation children!
History of Inner City Youth Opportunities
Inner City Youth Opportunities (ICYO) was founded in 1993 as a 501(C)3 non-profit organization by Cincinnati residents Jeanne and Philip Bell, Indian Hill residents, to help low income children living in the inner city that were experiencing family problems and struggling to become better students, both academically and socially. Their goal was to help these children develop the ability to resist negative peer pressure and increase the skills needed to achieve their dreams by remaining in school and graduating from high school.
While tennis may seem purely recreational, the Bells met with the founder of the Israel Tennis and Education Center that had successfully integrated tennis and education. Jeanne and Philip Bell wanted to use tennis to help children in the inner-city areas of Cincinnati, Ohio develop their talents and abilities and be successful in school. Their investigation and ideas resulted in a pilot program using tennis to teach 25 children tennis including goal setting, better communications, problem solving, self-discipline, how to manage losing and winning, leadership skills and personal accountability for life choices. Those children all attended Washburn Elementary School in the West End and were chosen by the school counselor, Douglas Shear.
As relationships developed between the children, Jeanne and Philip Bell, ICYO staff, tennis instructors and volunteers, Jeanne Bell realized that as a result of a lack of an adult’s attention to their education and a lack of guidance from adults important in their lives, many were failing at school due to truancy and behavior problems that resulted in frequent suspensions. She realized that any hope of success for these children demanded that these needs be addressed. In response, she expanded the original scope of ICYO by adding academic intervention and youth development programs to the organization resulting in its current structure. ICYO’s method is unique, as it uses a long term, comprehensive, year – round program at no cost to participants, and provides transportation to and from all ICYO activities.
The ICYO program was originally based on The Israel Tennis Centers, first established in 1979 as a network of fourteen tennis centers throughout Israel that successfully incorporated tennis and academics for children. Children learned to appreciate important values that may not be as easily adopted in the home or school environment. Through ICYO’s academic intervention program, ICYO staff and many volunteer tutors work with the youth to help them become intrinsically motivated to learn, or simply put, to instill the love of learning.
All ICYO’s programs help build self-esteem, encourage goal setting, and teach anger-management, leadership and social skills. It also facilitates trusting relationships that often lead to the child taking advantage of other problematic opportunities. ICYO’s strategy of “developmental asset building” focuses on nurturing athletic skills, support for academic success, commitment to learning, and responsibility and accountability for one’s choices. It sets boundaries for appropriate behavior and encourages mentoring from adults, older students and program graduates. ICYO also has a strong commitment to develop strategies that accentuate the positive building blocks of human development per the model of The Search Institute and their “40 Developmental Assets.”
The ICYO pilot program was so successful in Cincinnati, that Jeanne Bell was invited to join the Midwest USTA Minority Participation Committee in Indianapolis, IN to promote the ICYO organization and facilitate more USTA programs that combined Tennis and Education.
PAST AWARDS TO JEANNE BELL, Executive Director and Founder
Enshrinement into the Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association Hall of Fame August 2019 along with Philip Bell, ICYO CO-Founder
WKRC-TV: 12 Who Care
In recognition for commitment to helping inner city youth learn discipline,
responsibility and self-confidence.
Miami Purchase Preservation Fund – Partners in Housing
Award presented by the Miami Purchase Association in recognition of work in
improving the lives of Cincinnati’s inner city children.
Cincinnati Bell Building Bridges Award
Nominated for work in fostering a deeper appreciation for diversity in the
Ohio Valley Tennis Association Howard Dredge Award
For outstanding contribution to junior development.
Greater Cincinnati Tennis Association Carol Brestel Award
Presented annually to the adult volunteer who has contributed unselfishly of his
or her time and effort toward the administration of junior tennis in the Cincinnati area.
Washburn Elementary School Special Recognition Award
Given in appreciation for outstanding contributions and support to the students
and the staff at the school.
Cincinnati’s Women’s Indoor Tennis Association – Jane Pendl
In honor of outstanding sportsmanship, excellent service and leadership to Inner City Youth Opportunities and the Cincinnati community.
Pro Kids Recognition Award
Given in support of work in improving the lives of Cincinnati’s inner city
The Great Rivers Council of Girl Scouts
Honored as one of five Cincinnati women to receive the Woman of Distinction
Award, which honors and recognizes the civic, philanthropic and professional
achievements of outstanding women.
March of Dimes
Unsung Hero Award
Walnut Hills High School
Nominated to the Walnut Hills High School Hall of Fame.
Freedom Heroes Award
Local award given in the format of a television spot on WCPO-TV.
Jefferson Award Nomination (one of five finalists)
Philip Bell, Treasurer ICYO and owner PMB Consulting Services, Inc.
Grace Chung, CEO & Founder Executive Eight Coaching & Consulting, LLC. Former Global Vice President Strategic Marketing, Johnson & Johnson
Tony Fanning, USTA Tennis Professional at Five Seasons Family Sports Club
Dylan Gould, Attorney with Markovits. Stock & DeMarco
Dean Gregory, Managing Partner of Montgomery Inn
Zach Koons, Proctor & Gamble Marketing- Downy Senior Brand Manager
Mike Vescio, Successful entrepreneur with a passion for helping and giving back
Al Vontz III & Albert Vontz IV, Heirloom Ventures – a single family office of the Vontz family working in financial planning, investment and venture management and philanthropic investing, with a focus on the Greater Cincinnati region.
Madison Cantrell, Strategist Team Lead at InfoTrust / Digital Analytics Consulting / Data Governance Company
Jeanne Bell, Executive Director and Founder
Lillie Evans, Transportation Driver
Jamie Harrahill, Office Manager
Lillian Hughes, Transportation Driver
Nick Lazaro, Public Outreach, Assistant Director, Tutoring