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Life & Work with Dinese Young of Columbia Tusculum

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dinese Young.

Dinese, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My career started off pretty traditionally. I graduated from college in 1997 with a degree in elementary education and immediately began a career in teaching. Because I was a first generation college graduate, I chose a very stable, predictable career path. Though I had other interests, I had no mentors or guides to expose a variety of fields in which I might have excelled and found interest. When my husband and I decided to start of family, I stopped teaching to focus on raising our family. What was expected to be a couple year hiatus turned into several years. Three children later, an opportunity came my way that I had not planned for or anticipated. While satisfied with the work I did as a stay at home parent, I did start to crave productive work outside of the home. My husband and I were always engaged in our community, which we moved into in 1999. Ours is the oldest neighborhood in Cincinnati, so it is rich in history and has an active community, despite the small size. Our local nonprofit community center, The Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum was in transition and looking to either close its doors or reorganize and revamp efforts to be an active community center. They needed to hire an Executive Director to restructure and grow the facility on business, programming, fundraising and administrative levels. Because the facility had been closed to the community for a number of years, it was like starting from scratch. With their oversight, the volunteer Board of Directors were willing to give me carte blanch to creatively structure our venture as I saw fit. While this challenge tempted me, I was uncertain about the overwhelming task of starting from the ground up while balancing a family with young children at home. However, my love for the community and desire to see The Carnegie Center thrive and support our neighborhood, I dove into the new world of nonprofit management. My background in education assisted in setting up programming for the community, while my willingness to research and learn helped fill in gaps in training and knowledge.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The first few years had huge learning curves, but I knew that would be the case going into the project. Starting from scratch meant focusing first on the most important elements, like website, social media, etc. While this was time consuming, online presence helped with our limited advertising budget. I focused on the most affordable promotional opportunities, which were all digital in nature. The most important thing was to learn from mistakes and pay attention to what was working and what was not working. Also researching similar businesses/centers in the community as well as taking advantage of free support workshops offered by companies and foundations were helpful. Listening to feedback from the board, community and private clients was important. Knowing that there would be financial limitations early on, I kept a long term list of what projects to complete over the course of a few years. This also helped when opportunities to apply for grants came.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
The Carnegie Center of Columbia Tusculum is a nonprofit community center. We provide space for a variety of uses, including classes, workshops, performances, meetings, community parties and events. We also rent our facility for private use like parties, weddings, funeral wakes, and dances. This unique combination of public and private use allows us to have a financially strong nonprofit organization. We are unique in that our finances do not depend upon programming. In fact, for almost all of our programming we not make any money. This goes against a more traditional community or arts center concept. Our business model focuses on fundraising, grants, and private rentals to bring in revenue so that we can provide free use of space for instructors, artists and nonprofits to use our space for free or very little. In return, this savings is passed to the community, because much of our programming is free or very low cost. To make arts and education as accessible to as many people as possible, we try to keep our programming costs very, very low.

When I first started out, we tried to allow private event clients to bring in their own food or catering, which took a large amount of volunteer time for supervision, and the general care of the facility during events suffered. Later, we partnered with Jeff Thomas Catering to help supervise private events as an exclusive caterer. This partnership has been mutually advantageous. The Carnegie Center has been able to provide high quality private events while the professional catering staff takes very good care of our historic building. This frees up time and energy into the community and administrative aspects of our nonprofit management.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory is summertime. It was always my favorite time of year, because as a family we rode bikes, went swimming at my aunt’s house, enjoyed 4th of July gatherings with my extended family and 17 cousins, and played outside with neighborhood kids for hours and hours.


  • Saturday Event Rentals $2200
  • Friday Event Rentals $1400
  • Sunday Event Rentals $1200
  • Weekday rentals: $65-110/hr
  • Class rental rates: $35/hr or Free

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Tim Jeffries

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