Amani Abraham is a reporter, editor, and news anchor 1590 WAKR and the ACM nominated morning show 94.9 WQMX in Akron. She was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in News and Radio/TV Broadcasting. She fell in love with radio and television broadcasting while working as an on-air personality, editor and television host at WZIP-FM and ZTV. In 2011, Amani was named a Woman To Watch by the Women's History Project in Akron. She was also recognized for her work in journalism, receiving the first-place award for Best Reporter by the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Association.
Thursday, 08 January 2015 13:08

Coming Attractions Bridal Shop Closing

The bridal shop that as at the center of the Ebola scare in the Akron area has decided to close its doors for good. Coming Attractions Bridal Shop is closing in May after not being able to recover from their financial loss following Amber Vinson's visit.

Coming Attractions employee Kayla Litz talked to WAKR's Jasen Sokol about the news.

"You know, people say 'Oh you got your dress from the Ebola store,'" Litz said. "It's a bad stigma that just hasn't seemed to go away."

Coming Attractions posted the news on their Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

No word on whether or not Coming Attractions will move somewhere else for a fresh start.

Published in Local

Fashion can be used as a way to express yourself. For Neighbors Apparel, it's a chance to become the neighbor of a refugee living in Akron.

Tessa Reeves wanted to do more with her fashion degree from Kent State University. She wanted to make a difference in the community -- and that's exactly what she's doing.

Reeves teamed up with the non-profit group Urban Vision to help create employment for refugees in the North Hill area and to bring cultures together with fashion.

"What I don't want to do is create pity. We're not doing this because 'Oh, they need us," said Reeves. "We're doing this to celebrate the fact that we have these survivors living alongside us as neighbors."

women s pocket tee grande

Neighbors Apparel focuses on bringing two cultures together by blending traditional fabric with American design. 

"One thing our people really like is our Ohio Tee," said Reeves. "Basically, we take the fabric from Thailand and we cut out a shape of Ohio and then paste it on a t-shirt. That's my favorite product because I think it tells our story the best." 

Among those working at Neighbors Apparel: Head seamstress Ka Naw, a Karen refugee woman from Burma, and Chandra Rai, a Bhutanese refugee.

"There's lots of people who want to come to America, but they don't get a chance to be here due to economic problems," said Rai. "We are lucky that we get a chance to be here in America and I'm happy to be here." 

In about six months, five local retailers have picked up the clothing/accessory line -- including the Market Path at Highland Square and the NOTO Boutique in Downtown Akron. Reeves hopes it's just the beginning.

Source: Neighbors Apparel

Published in Local
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:24

Students Dig Up Pig Remains

A group of forensic archaeology students will be spending the next few weeks uncovering a mystery that lies beneath a pair of shallow graves in a wooded area in Bath Township.

It's a crime scene -- but it's not what you think. It's not real.

Everything has been set up -- including the remains of two pigs purchased from a local butcher. The animals were buried about a year ago in shallow graves in a wooded area staged as a mock crime scene.

"One of the reasons we developed this is it gives [students] practice mapping something very complicated," said KSU Assistant Anthropology Professor Dr. Linda Spurlock.

Archaeologist and UA professor Linda Whitman is one of the instructors in the three-week course designed to introduce students to forensic work and hands-on experience in the field.

"We take the bones back to the lab where they get washed and reconstructed and they look for the manner and cause of death," said Whitman.

While the story behind the pig's death is made up, the process is real -- including the smell left behind as students slowly uncover the decomposing fat, bones and clothing.

"This is what I like to do. I like to dig up bones," said UA Anthropology student Paige Dobbins. "It's kind of exciting to go from learning about it in the classroom to actually getting to dig to it."

Although it may appear to have some of the same qualities as a recent episode of Law and Order, there are still plenty of differences when compared to the real-life, forensic process.

"It's not quite as sexy as it is on television," said Dobbins. "It's a lot of dirt and decomposed fat."


Published in Local

In a statement loaded with apologies to a city hall employee he's known for 14 years, his wife of 25 years Sandy, his cabinet members, the Moneypenny family and the citizens of Akron, Garry Moneypenny's political ambitions flamed out because of inappropriate touching of a female co-worker at City Hall who was congratulating him on his appointment as interim mayor during the transition following then-Mayor Don Plusquellic's resignation a month ago.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Moneypenny said, adding he would not run for Mayor but would serve the remainder of the term he assumed only five days ago. "I turned a good-bye hug into a too personal encounter...I clearly violated a professional and personal boundary." In the Q&A following the statement, Moneypenny noted no charges or complaints had been filed. 

"I regret violating the very same principles I've spent my entire career upholding," Moneypenny said, noting his career as a law enforcement officer included working with victim assistance programs. 

Reporters pressed Moneypenny about whether it's okay to remain in office if it's not okay to run for a full term.

"I have been elected to this position by my peers on council and put into this position as our charter (provides)," said Moneypenny.  I believe that I am still at this point the best to move forward with this city on an interim basis."

If it's okay to remain in the position for six month, then why not run for a full term?

"I've made a mistake here," said Moneypenny. "There are people who got out of this election race so I could run and this gives them plenty of time to go out and get their signatures at this point."



(City of Akron) In my last week in office as president of city council, I behaved inappropriately with a city employee, who came to my office to wish me well on my transition to mayor.

In the emotion of the moment, I turned a good-bye hug into a too-personal encounter. I have known this employee for over 14 years. We have always had a very professional relationship. And I clearly violated a professional and personal boundary.

Words cannot describe the remorse I feel for my actions.

I spent 37 years in law enforcement. I've spent years in service to Victim's Assistance. I regret violating the very same principles I've spent my career upholding.

I offered my unconditional apology to this employee. I apologized to my wonderful wife of 25 years. I apologized to my cabinet members. And now, I offer my apology to the citizens of Akron who trust me to serve as mayor.

I take full responsibility for my actions. I know this incident calls my character and my trustworthiness into question. For this reason, I have decided that I will not be a candidate for election to mayor and I will not appear on the ballot in September.

I will do my best to serve as the city's interim mayor and will pledge my support to the new administration when the new mayor is elected.


Published in Local

A Stow couple has waited 31 years for this day.

"It's like I won the lottery," said 66-year-old John Marshall.

Marshall couldn't hold back the tears while explaining the meaning behind getting a marriage license to legally tie the knot with his partner, 65-year-old James Neilsen.

"It's just like all of your life you've been denied something that you know in you heart is right," said Marshall. "And finally the door swings open."

According to the Summit County Probate Court, Marshall and Neilsen were the first male couple to recieve their marriage license in Summit County.

Marshall called it a historic day -- breaking down barriers and giving same-sex couples equal rights.

Within a two hour period, four couples applied for a marriage license Friday afternoon.

Published in Local
Friday, 31 July 2015 05:32

Who -- Or What -- Is Trust Navigator?

As the University of Akron eliminated more than 213 jobs this week including over 50 jobs in its Department of Student Success, board of trustees also approved a move to spend $843,000 on a company that would provide "success coaches" for students.

But details on the company delivering those "coaches" are limited with the exception of a single article on the website published last month or the company's own website. Trust Navigator searches respond with links directly to the company's website or background on some of the key staff listed by the company.

On Monday, board of trustees approved plans to enter an agreement with Trust Navigator, LLC, a not-for-profit organization based out of Mayfield Heights, to provide coaches to work "closely with this fall’s incoming freshman class." The package of layoffs approved by Trustees included deep cuts in the existing "student success" bureaucracy at the University.

According to Trust Navigator's website, the coaches are "assigned to a student until graduation" focusing on "academic success and retention." While those goals are in line with UA's mission to focus on student success, there is little known about Trust Navigator's prior clients or experience in the educational field. In examining the Trust Navigator website there are no references to existing clients or events. reached out to UA officials for comment, but our request was acknowledged by a University spokesperson who noted key individuals who could answer any inquiry were on vacation and would not be available until next week. WAKR has requested copies of documents presented to the University of Akron Board of Trustees outlining the student success agreement and the contact between the firm and University as well as other documents which may provide other information about Trust Navigator's experience.

TrustNavigatorPostcardTrust Navigator's website does include some information regarding the past experience of those directly involved in the organization, including Trust Navigator's Chief Ambassador, Tom Roulston. He's listed as the “ideas man” behind the company with "30 years of entrepreneurial experience." Roulston currently runs two companies, Roulston Buyside Research and Thomas Roulston Investment Partners.

Rob Reho, Chief Operations Ambassador, has more than 32 years of "experience in marketing and operations management." According to the company's website, Reho graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Organizational Communications and completed his MBA at Kent State University. He serves as the interim General Manager for Flohr Machine and is the owner of Executive Marketing Plus.Reho returned our calls but was unable to provide additional information, explaining he was also on vacation this week but would be in a position to provide more background next week.

In the position of Communications and Curriculum Ambassador, the first staffer recognized on the website, Grace Roulston, is listed as a graduate from Ohio University with a Major in Communications and a Minor in Film Studies. According to the website, she worked in marketing for Save Local Now, a startup company where she gained "experience working with entrepreneurs and getting to learn about a variety of small businesses." The website was revised Thursday afternoon to list Anna Zeller instead of Roulston in the position of "Chief Envoy Ambassador" with a qualification listing her college career at Allegheny College and the University of Akron where she also played on the women's soccer team. A graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Major in History and a Minor in Art history, Zeller "...accepted the opportunity to work at Trust Navigator and help other college students maximize their educational experience' according to the website.

Details in regards to Trust Navigator's history is limited, but a quick search revealed that in a 2005 revised disclosure form, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed Trust Navigator, LLC as an investment adviser --- but is now listed as "NOT currently registered and is NOT filing reports with the SEC or any state." Kenneth A. Louard, former director of operations and chief counsel with the Cleveland Browns, and Tom Roulston were listed in the SEC filing as managing partners.

Louard is currently the director of business development at Grain Management, LLC in Sarasota, searched for more information on Louard; there were three LinkedIn profiles for a Ken or Kenneth Louard and all appear to be of the same person with business interests in northeast Ohio and affiliation with an investment and equity firm in Sarasota, Florida. In one, the Harvard Business School educated Louard is listed as the owner of Trust Navigator, LLC. A more comprehensive listing shows Louard as a Director of Grain Management LLC of Sarasota since August 2012. Grain Management is listed as a private equity firm specializing in media and communications sectors with two flagship funds managing "...a number of the country’s leading academic institutions, endowments, and public pension funds." Louard's LinkedIn resume also includes more than seven years with the Cleveland Browns serving as Director of Operations and Chief Counsel and as partner for more than three years with the Cleveland-based law firm of Gonzalez, Saggio and Harlan.

Published in Local
With just six employees, no prior clients and no experience in higher education, the University of Akron picked Trust Navigator, LLC to bring "student success coaches" to the campus over a firm that has worked with more than a million students.There are questions surrounding whether TrustNavigator is the right fit for a university that is currently under a microscope after announcing a projected $60 million budget shortfall --- but some of those questions have now been answered after the Devil Strip's Chris Horne examined UA's request for proposal (RFP) seeking success coaches. 
Just over a week ago, on Monday, July 27, 2015 the University Board of Trustees approved an $843,000 contract with the newly launched program -- the same day the trustees also approved eliminating 213 jobs, including more than 50 jobs in the Department of Student Success. The University claims it will save $15 million dollars because of the workforce reductions to help meet the challenge of a $40 million to $60 million dollar deficit depending on various reports.
Trust Navigator and InsideTrack were the only companies to respond to UA's RFP -- and there are obvious differences between the two. RFP's were due July 7, 2015 meaning there was less than three weeks for review by the Administration and eventually Trustees.
Trust Navigator has a website which is largely in-progress and lists a few employees, no clients or events. InsideTrack has a more developed website, lists more leadership team members and includes links to stories from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Among those listed as references by Trust Navigator are E. Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University, and James E. Bennett, Chief of Stafff to the president of Cleveland State University. InsideTrack declined to provide a list of references until the final step of the due diligence process to "maintain the goodwill of existing clients." InsideTrack also noted it's attorney was working with existing clients to approve release of their names due to confidentiality agreements due to the "quick turnaround time for the RFP." 
InsideTrack is a for-profit San Fransico-based company, founded in 2000 which employs more than 300 individuals across the country. It was named one of the "10 most innovative companies in education" by Fast Company. The company reports working with more than a million students "across every type of higher education institution in the country" and discusses its program that provides a mobile app to connect students directly to university and career resources.On the other end, Trust Navigator, a Cleveland-based company, listed no prior clients or higher educational experience. They currently employ only six individuals with plans of hiring 20 success coaches to serve around 4,000 students. They did note that it would be a "heavy workload and most probably stretching the limit of burnout risk."

According to the proposal, Trust Navigator expects that over 75 percent of their success coaches will be UA alumni -- but that's not guaranteed. While that may have been an important element to UA officials, that was just one of 15 factors in the evaluation used to grade the companies. InsideTrack did not make any promises to hire UA graduates. 
Research and citations were included in InsideTrack's proposal to show evidence of success and the company's growth within a 15 year period. Trust Navigator was unable to provide similar results because they have yet to officially launch their program.
InsideTrack's standard outreach program for 4,000 students was nearly double the cost of Trust Navigator, with a price tag of $1.66 million. That factor alone was weighted 10 times more than any other criteria that was graded based on UA's 1200 point scale.
Trust Navigator outscored InsideTrack on 9 out of the 15 criteria analyzed by UA officials. Final score: Trust Navigator - 680. InsideTrack - 360. Or, put another way, a company with no track record had double the evaluation score than a company with 15 years experience and a national track record.
If in fact cost and hiring a local company that employs UA graduates were deciding factors, the question still remains as to how the university can afford the financial risk of working with a pilot program with no prior experience or proven results?
Previous Coverage: 
Published in Local
Wednesday, 12 August 2015 13:32

UA Protesters: "Akron Is Scarred"

Ode to an Antique Olive Jar:

"O Olive Jar! You are empty while I am sad. 

I cannot afford to fill thee with expensive imported olives."

The poem, written by University of Akron graduate and retired educator Wendy Duke, was intended to symbolize the feeling of disgust that many are attaching to an $556 decorative olive jar recently purchased for the university-owned presidential residence.

Duke and dozens of others waited nearly two hours outside the doors of room 339 inside the Student Union. UA Board of Trustees were scheduled to meet in a public session around 9 a.m. The nearly two-hour wait was plenty of time for protesters to voice their opinions and express their concerns surrounding UA's recent budget cuts, including the elimination of 213 jobs. 

28-year veteran English professor Antonia Forster made it very clear why she showed up.

"Generalized rage about the way the university is being destroyed by this attitude that money is the only thing that matters," said Forster.

People like Forster are mad about the elimination of staff and proposed reconfiguration of the UA Press, EJ Thomas Hall and the hiring of an inexperienced company to provide success coaches to students.

"The faculty is being treated like morons and lied to all the time and each time one lie gets pointed out, they come up with another one," said Forster. "There's a pattern of getting rid of all the people who know how to do things and replacing them with cheap people who don't know what they're doing."

Kristie Kern and her 10-year-old son, Kenton, were also in attendance outside the board of trustees meeting, using their violins as a way to express their concerns and present a symbolic message to represent the changes and job cuts at EJ Thomas Hall. Kern's husband, Kevin, is a UA history professor and also a member of the UA Press board.

"We, most especially, are upset about the situation with EJ Thomas Hall," said Kern. "This is why we brought our violins, my son and I, to represent the loss of performance opportunities at EJ Thomas."

Olive Protest2 Amani

But much of the attention was placed on the support offered for president Scott Scarborough, drawing snickers from people who were hoping to hear the opposite.While it was business as usual inside room 339 as UA board of trustees.

"We believe Dr. Scott Scarborough has appropriately and effectively addressed the issues presented to him," said Pavloff, who was then interrupted by the crowd's laughter. reconvened following an executive session Wednesday morning, Scarborough and Board Chairman Jonathon Pavloff did admit to making mistakes -- saying the administration could have done a better job delivering the message.

The board of trustees did not hear or answer questions from the public.

Previous Coverage:

Olive Jar Discussion Continues

Scott Scarborough: Unplugged

Eliminate UA Football: Not So Simple

UA President's House Repairs Cost More Than It's Worth

UA Planning To Cut Jobs, Baseball Program



Published in Local

It's not the first time San Francisco-based artist Hunter Franks has done something like this -- but it is his largest project. 

With help from the Knight Foundation, Franks was able to bring together 500 Akronites together for one shared meal on a 500-foot long table. Oh -- and it's sitting on Akron's Innerbelt.  

Published in Local
Wednesday, 11 November 2015 12:31


It's now official: nine dead from yesterday's jet crash on approach to Akron Fulton Airport.

Lt. Bill Haymaker of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said all of the victims were on the jet's manifest from Ft. Lauderdale to Dayton, then Akron. Officials said not all of the victims may be from Florida and notification of family is underway, with no names released.

The company is Pebb Enterprises, of Boca Raton, Florida. They posted the following on their website: Our hearts are broken this morning with the news of the tragic accident that took the lives of two principals and five employees of Pebb Enterprises. We are shocked and deeply saddened for the families, colleagues and friends of those who perished. Our first priority is to give our fullest support to the family members and loved ones of our co-workers. We ask for the media's understanding and cooperation at this time of unimaginable loss and mourning and are not responding to media requests at this time.

Haymaker confirmed that up to 12 families were impacted when the jet crashed into the four-unit apartment building on Mogadore Road; while no one was inside the building and adjacent apartments and homes were also damages. The American Red Cross provided relief for 11 families in the short-term.

Click here to view the entire press conference on Periscope.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) now has a full team in Akron.

NTSB vice-chairman Bella Dinn-Zarr - heading up the team here - told an afternoon press conference on Wednesday that the cockpit voice recorder has been recovered.

Dinn-Zarr said that a number of factors will be considered as they look into the crash...including flight controls, engines, weather, air traffic control and operations.

She called weather a "key factor" that will be investigated, along with surveillance video from a nearby business that shows the plane's approach.

Dinn-Zarr says they looked at the ground after seeing a surveillance video showing the aircraft flowing at a low altitude and banking left, finding evidence that the left wing hit the ground first.

There will be no determination issued by the NTSB while it is here the next four to five days.

Meanwhile, more residents in the immediate neighborhood are coming forward with video and testimony as the jet came down. In an interview with WAKR's Amani Abraham, Seth Yergin, 23, of Akron, said he heard the explosion and went outside to see what happened; there was already the apartment building "completely on fire...there was nothing I could do."

"It's kind of surreal," Yergin said. "It's pretty scary. It's strange to think the slightest thing, it could have been us."

NOTE: Video captured by Seth Yergin is at the bottom of this story.

Published in Local