Things We Love: Picks from Mike Alcock

Mike Alcock
Photo by Dane Khy/The Perfect Pear

For the past year, Mike Alcock has served as the board chair for Southside STAY, which works to support and empower neighborhood public schools in South Columbus. Public librarian by day and community activist by night (and some very early mornings), he has spent his entire professional career working with youth in education. In honor of Southside STAY's third annual Art & Craft Fair, which takes place at Stewart Alternative Elementary on Saturday, Sept. 29, here are a few of his favorite things.

Student Success Stores

This local nonprofit provides middle and high school students with an anonymous place to shop in school for items that meet basic needs. Started in 2016 through a Pitch to Ditch Poverty grant, it currently operates in five Columbus schools. If you want to get involved, the organization is always looking for community volunteers and neighborhood partners to help!

Being Black at School

More than half the kids who attend Columbus City Schools are black. Being Black at School utilizes data and policy analysis to advocate for equity and safety for black students, engaging all levels of educational decision-making: classroom educators, community activists, local governments and policy experts alike. It's based out of Chicago and there's no Columbus chapter (yet), but some promising efforts in our city around racial equity in education — supported by the Kirwan Institute, the Juvenile Justice Coalition, and the city's Commission on Black Girls, to name a few — make a strong case for starting one.

Neighborhood Leadership Academy

The best, most inclusive civic engagement experience you've never heard of, right here in Columbus. Through the United Way, the Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) provides emerging community leaders across a wide range of demographics with training and skill-building opportunities around advocacy, consensus-building, effective collaboration and communication. Class members also work together on community engagement projects that are eligible for real grant money. I am part of the South Side NLA, but there are also groups on the Near East Side and Linden, plus the original citywide program.

Flavor 91 Bistro

My hands-down favorite restaurant in Columbus right now. Flavor 91 reads as a modest farm-to-table burger joint, but, trust me, it has levels. Not only does the menu go extremely hard — I like the lamb burger, Ethiopian dry rub wings or chicken mushroom soup — but the staff also makes time to learn your name (and remember it), what brought you in and from where, and your palate do's and don'ts. Congrats to Moses, Winta, Mom, and the whole crew on two years. Here's to many more!

Kids who dance

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but with it being Homecoming season, I just want to give a shout out to all the young two-steppers, eight-counters and footloose b-boys and b-girls strutting it up out here. I see you on the corner doing the Kiki. I see you in the aisle at the grocery store fixing your Floss. I even saw you at the library, Shooting in the stacks when you thought no one was looking. I personally couldn't dance myself out of a wet paper bag. But I see you.