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Davis United World College Scholars


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Committed to Building Equity in the Cincinnati Community

As a program officer with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Zohar Perla (USA, UWC-USA, Amherst ’12) works to support efforts by nonprofit organizations to address poverty and educational inequality in her community. During her graduate studies at UC Berkeley, she generated the data for “Producing Poverty,” an often-cited report that focuses on the public costs of low-wage jobs in manufacturing.

When the pandemic brought a sharp rise in needs across greater Cincinnati, “there were so many programs that suddenly had all these costs,” Zohar writes, “and it takes time for federal funding to reach individuals and communities. So together with the United Way we launched the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund. “The fund supported everything from helping homeless shelters put individuals into hotel rooms until HUD funding came, to helping the Urban League scale up to help the African American community get masks out and do COVID tests in urban neighborhoods, and to keeping a YMCA pandemic preschool running.

“My biggest win last year was helping Cincinnati public schools get a free internet system in place for students. Any student could call a number and get internet at their house paid for by the district. We figured out how to contact the hardest-to-reach parents, translated materials into Spanish, and learned there are places in the city that lack the infrastructure for high-speed internet access, where kids needed hot spots.”

At year’s end, she was helping to fight proposed legislation in the Ohio Legislature that would cut funding to school districts that teach about racism in American history.