Graduate Reaches Beyond Circumstances to Achieve His Dreams
Robert Grice’s pursuit of a UC college degree took him from the inner city of Cleveland to international study in France.
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover and Andrew Higley
There was a thundering cheer when the name Robert Grice was called at the University of Cincinnati Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 9. In addition to his mother, sister, two brothers, nieces, nephews, godmother and five best friends, 45 young men – from what the U.S. Census Bureau has named the most impoverished large city in the nation, Cleveland – traveled to Commencement to see Robert Grice cross that stage to be congratulated by UC President Nancy L. Zimpher. He earned his bachelor’s degree in French language and literature from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.
Grice’s 45 fans were from schools in Cleveland’s inner city: Wilbur Wright Middle School and Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where Grice graduated in the top five percent of his high school class. Led by school security officer Timothy Roberts, the group represents the B.R.I.C.K. Program, which stands for Brotherhood, Respect, Intelligence, Conduct and Knowledge. Founded by Roberts, the program builds a network of social and academic support for youth age 11-19 who live in Cleveland’s most at-risk neighborhoods. After a visit to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center downtown, Roberts led the group to UC to witness one of the program’s most prominent success stories.
“Robert and Ohio State Quarterback Troy Smith attended the same high school and were both in the B.R.I.C.K. Program,” Roberts says. “I could be going to New York on Saturday to see Troy collect the Heisman Trophy. Instead, I want these young men to see that you can make your own story, like Robert has, and he deserves the accolades for it. I feel we are in a country that does not celebrate education the way it should celebrate education, especially from the inner-city perspective,” he says.
Grice grew up in what Roberts calls one of the toughest neighborhoods on the east side of Cleveland. Grice says that the sound of gunfire became so common, he stopped flinching at the sound by the time he was seven. He remembers that in sixth grade, when he first started working at age 13, he was approached about selling crack cocaine, and says he can count on his hand, himself included, the few people who could turn down the offer and the money. But he says he and his best friend would get into turf battles with opposing neighborhoods. He was recruited into the B.R.I.C.K. program in 1998.
Roberts says B.R.I.C.K. works not only as a prevention and intervention program, but also to encourage youth to work to make positive changes in their own communities. The youth would adopt a senior citizen and learn of the history of their neighborhoods and the pride in that history. They’d read to children in local day care centers.
Grice, who first dreamed of becoming a teacher back when he first studied French in seventh grade, took the lessons to heart. With no money to attend college, he says UC was the closest public university to have a nationally esteemed French program. But he says his biggest personal accomplishment was studying in France, first with the College of Business during a seven-week work-study program in 2003 and again in 2004, when he worked for seven months as a teacher’s assistant for the French embassy.
Currently, Grice is working part-time for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College as an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) tutor. But he eventually plans to get back to France, where this graduate, representing one of the most impoverished cities in the nation, will continue to successfully pursue his dreams and continue his education.