This is no ordinary carport "” it's an $11 million gift to the Cincinnati Zoo expected to produce millions of dollars in energy savings.

The canopy of 6,400 solar panels in the Zoo's Vine Street parking lot shades the cars of zoo patrons while converting sunlight into usable clean energy. It's projected to produce about 20 percent of the energy needs at what Zoo Director Thane Maynard now calls "The Greenest Zoo in America."

Melink Corporation, of Milford, is the developer, designer, owner and operator of the project. Steve Melink, president and CEO of the HVAC and renewable energy firm, says of the May dedication at the Zoo, "Wow, what a tribute to a lot of people who poured their hearts into this to make it happen."

Melink credits the "Big Three: the Zoo, Melink and PNC Bank" but adds it was also the work of engineering firms, construction companies, lawyers, and those who helped obtain New Market Tax Credits as part of the package.

Also involved were Uptown Consortium, National Development Council, The Utilities Group and FirstEnergy Solutions. "It's a community win-win," says Melink, adding that $2,000 scholarships were awarded to 10 students in the Green Workforce Development Program at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

The zoo paid nothing for the project because of the financing package put together by Melink and PNC Bank among others.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman told the 150 people at the dedication, "Everything you see behind us is made in America. Many of the things are made right here. It's a fantastic example of where we can both improve our efficiency, and on a beautiful day like this, the Cincinnati Zoo is actually selling energy back to the grid."

An educational kiosk located in the Zoo's Vine Street Village will allow visitors to learn about the performance of the array and the benefits of the solar energy in general.

"” Dianne Gebhardt-French

On Saturday, June 11, the University of Cincinnati's Spring commencement ceremonies will award bachelor's and associate degrees to 4,857 students.

Now, the focus shifts to "how" students use their degree: Not just gaining knowledge, but harnessing their passion in their careers, says to Katrina Jordan, director of the UC Career Development Center.

"What we try to encourage students to do is to marry what they've learned with what they have a passion for," Jordan says.

John F. Barrett, chairman, president and CEO of Western & Southern Financial Group, will give the address, themed "Living the Dream." Barrett graduated from the UC College of Business in 1971 and was inducted into the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame in 2009.

Commencement will be held at UC's uptown campus in the Fifth Third Arena at Shoemaker Center. Two ceremonies will be conducted: a session at 9 a.m. and a session at 2 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. with free admission to guests of graduating students.

"” Brianna Bodine

Approximately 1,000 students each academic year from eight Northern Kentucky high schools are expected to benefit from a Thomas More College program promoting interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Funded by a $360,000 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, STEM increases collaboration with area high schools through teacher workshops, summer camps for high school students, and shared resources.

Thomas More College launched the innovative partnership this spring. "The Thomas Moore STEM Initiative is in response to a regional and national need," college President Margaret Stallmeyer says. "As we all know, our nation is falling behind in science and technology."

The primary goal is "to improve STEM education in our region, and to attract more high school students into the STEM disciplines in college," says Chris Lorentz, a Thomas Moore biology professor. "We will help students of today become the STEM graduates of tomorrow."

Additionally, the program will identify up to five qualified students from each school to attend a weeklong summer camp at Thomas Moore, exposing them to real world research activities.

Access to cutting edge technology and lab equipment will make lessons more interesting to students, according to Bill Stamm, science teacher at Newport Central Catholic High School and a Thomas Moore alumnus. "To see real people doing the work and maybe even impacting their lives, I think that can inspire people," he says.

Participating schools are Bellevue High School, Bishop Brossert High School, Dayton High School, Holy Cross High School, Lloyd Memorial High School, Ludlow High School, Newport High School and Newport Central Catholic High School.

"” B.B.


A lot of hospital emergency departments have "loyal customers," but that's not necessarily a good thing.

"The ER of hospitals is not the appropriate place to go get a prescription refill or check on your headache," says Judith Warren, executive director of Health Care Access Now (HCAN).

Approximately 20 percent of ER visits are for non-emergency problems that could be better treated at a doctor's office, according to the 2005 Greater Cincinnati Health Status Survey.

"Health care does provide coverage, but it does not provide access," Warren says. "We're concerned with appropriate access."

Patients and hospitals save money when care is provided in a family practice or pediatrician's office rather than the ER. HCAN partners with Access Health 100 to connect patients with non-ER doctors through a program called Emergency Department Care Coordination Pathway.

Through the program, patients see a physician and then meet with the pathway's Community Outreach Specialist, also called a "patient navigator," who connects them with a more appropriate venue for regular health care.

So far, the program has helped hundreds of people connect with healthcare providers, and has a 70 percent success rate for patients keeping their appointments after being referred. HCAN is currently seeking to expand the reach of its care coordination programs, including a Pregnancy Pathway to help at-risk pregnant women.

"If it works, we need to spread it," Warren says.

"” B. B.

More than 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah said, "And seek the peace of the city "¢ for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."

With this inspiration, the Peace of the City dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 5 at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, and will benefit more than 30 local Cincinnati nonprofit organizations. Senator Rob Portman will be the guest speaker.

"This dinner is unique as it brings together, at one time, supporters of over 30 nonprofit organizations," says Sherry Kaplan, director of marketing for Jewish Family Service.

The Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Family Service are lead organizers, and the event will acknowledge Richard "Dick" Weiland, founder and president of Richard Consulting Corporation, for his championing of social service in the community, serving on more than 30 boards and commissions.

"Dick Weiland has long had a passion for making the Cincinnati region a great community," says Neil Tilow, president and CEO of Talbert House, a local nonprofit that provides services ranging from recovery treatment to welfare-to-work. "He has dedicated his time and money to ensuring that people are given a hand when they need it and a second chance when they deserve it."

"” B. B.

The Bengals sent a message to the team, the fans and estranged quarterback Carson Palmer at the recent NFL Draft by taking Texas Christian University quarterback Andy Dalton with their second-round pick.

"If he ends up being the starter as a rookie, I think he can do that," says ninth-year head coach Marvin Lewis of the four-year starter who went 42-7 and passed for more than 10,000 yards with 71 touchdowns.

As Palmer sits out with his threat to retire if he isn't traded, the Bengals moved forward, revamping the offense further by drafting Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green No. 4 overall, perhaps a message to another disgruntled player, Chad Ochocinco. The other draft picks were: Linebacker Dontay Moch (third round, Nevada), offensive lineman Clint Boling (fourth round, Georgia), safety Robert Sands (fifth round, West Virginia), wide receiver Ryan Whalen (sixth round, Stanford), cornerback Korey Lindsey (seventh round, Southern Illinois) and running back Jay Finley (seventh round, Baylor).

The Bengals' schedule was released before the draft, and it includes two road games to begin the season with the opener in Cleveland on Sept. 11, and two home games to close the season, including the finale against Baltimore. There are no prime-time games.

"I'm excited not only to have our last two at home, but three of our last four," Lewis says. "And obviously the (four-game) stretch of division games in November and December is going to be a key for us."

The team also announced that Brad Johansen would be replaced with Dan Hoard on gameday radio broadcasts.