By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLIFTON - In a famous Cincinnati hotel, about 50 high school juniors and seniors discovered the city can be a place where tolerance is the norm, development is expected and pride overwhelming.
The hand-picked students from 14 area high schools woke early Saturday to participate in Cincinnati's first Young Patriot's Leadership Conference, presented by the Greater Cincinnati chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at the Vernon Manor Hotel.
"We are hoping the kids get a feel that Cincinnati is a great place to live with all kinds of cultural and educational benefits," said Ann Wiethe, a Freedoms Foundation board member.
The program was designed to teach young adults about the history of Cincinnati and encourage them to consider Cincinnati when choosing a place to settle.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to know the history of the city and its personalities over the years," said John Banner, an attorney and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati. "Hopefully they find enough good things to keep them here during their professional careers."
The 12-hour event was filled with mainstream and little-known facts about Cincinnati, presenting the city from different perspectives.
Students also participated in a jobs fair, banquet and awards ceremony after they returned from a 21/2-hour, 39-stop bus tour of the city.
The students got an interactive history lesson as well. The experiences of George Washington, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Lucy Hayes, William Howard Taft and Neil Armstrong were re-enacted.
Councilman Sam Malone spoke about the city's political and racial climate and closed his speech by asking the students to "not be too hard on your city."
The diverse group of students, chosen because of their strong leadership skills, said the conference was better than they expected.
"I think it is very good experience for me to know Cincinnati," said Naoko Utahara, 17, a Japanese exchange student at SCPA. "I like it here very much. I think that it is cool."
Sycamore student David Tari said the presentations were interesting.
"It can't hurt to get to know the people and what people think and how to make this a better place," Tari said.
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