Allison Hite (‘15) is the creator of Never, Ever Give Up – CLE, a storytelling project launched in 2018 that has evolved from a social media presence, to a public art installation, and now a book set for release in July.
Based in Cleveland, Ohio, and honoring the perseverance of northeast Ohioans, Never, Ever Give Up asks people to answer one question: What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do?
Hite, who recently completed her Juris Doctor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, accepts submissions through her website, in person at community events, and through scheduled programming with community organizations, and shares the stories through Instagram. Followers of the account reply with words or stories of encouragement, or “Letters of Hope,” creating an online community where people can go to be inspired.
A native of Strongsville, Ohio, Hite started the project after facing one of the hardest experiences of her own life – losing her mother in a traffic accident in 2016. Initially afraid to talk about the experience with others, one night, nearly a year and a half later, she walked into an open mic at Story Club Cleveland. The theme that night was “gratitude.” Hite stepped onto the stage and shared her story, describing how hard it was to feel grateful after the loss of her mother.
After the show, audience members were in a line waiting to talk to her. She realized people did understand, and she realized she gained strength and wisdom from sharing her story. That night eventually became Hite’s inspiration for launching Never, Ever Give Up.
“This project is rewarding because there is not trophy, or medal for getting through and learning to carry your trauma,” Hite said. “What you do get, for finding a way through, is the ability to reach back and extend a hand to someone else. That's how I feel.”
In 2019, Hite was awarded a grant from the Cleveland Leadership Center’s Accelerate program to expand the project into a public art installation. At Cleveland’s Hart Crane Park on the Cuyahoga River, she hung anonymous, handwritten stories, all answering the project’s central question: What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do? In the middle of the stories stood a five-foot tall bright yellow mailbox to collect Letters of Hope in response to the stories. The art installation at Hart Crane Park also hosted a Common Ground conversation and an open mic night.
Now, Hite has turned the project into a book, “Never, Ever Give Up: Anonymous Stories and Letters from Northeast Ohio,” that showcases a selection of the anonymous stories and Letters of Hope. The topics include leaving an abusive relationship, moving to a new country, asking for help, learning how to ride a bike, being a first-generation college student, and comforting a mom who just lost her son to suicide.
“The project was always destined for a book,” Hite said. “The stories and Letters of Hope we collect are meant to be shared to as many people as possible in order to inspire and honor resilience. People have always asked about a book and whether or not there was one, so I'm grateful that there is now a way for people without social media to interact with these stories and letters.”
Profits from the book, now available for preorder online, will be donated to local mental health organizations.
“All of the people in the book deserve to have their hardest thing heard and to be fully seen and supported,” Hite said. “They are all truly inspirational and I hope that by being in the book, they get the same reward, and will inspire other people to never, ever give up.”
In addition to earning her Master of Public Service from the Clinton School, Hite is a graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in political science.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.