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Ohio State program aims to help low-income students succeed

A recently recognized Ohio State program that aims to help low-income students in urban areas succeed has made an impact on at least one student’s life.

Nyiala Harris, a second-year in exploration, was selected to be part of the OSU Young Scholars Program when she was in sixth-grade in her hometown of Cincinnati.

“We would come to OSU about once a year and take tours of the campus, talk to students and stuff like that,” Harris said. “We would also have discussions, weekly meetings, and community service projects.”

Harris said being a part of the program from a young age helped her learn to take responsibility for her actions.

“I knew in the sixth grade that my future was in my own hands and that completing the program was ultimately my decision,” Harris said.

OSU’s Young Scholars Program was recently named the 2013 recipient of the C. Peter Magrath University Community Engagement Award, an award that recognizes four-year public universities for their outreach and engagement partnerships.

The award, which included a $20,000 stipend and trophy, was sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, according to a university press release.

The $20,000 award stipend will be used to provide more learning opportunities for the scholars and to help support the efforts of community partners, especially those in the school districts involved with the program, Curtis Austin, director of the Young Scholars Program, said in a statement emailed to The Lantern by Ben Lewis, director of communications and special projects for the Office of Outreach and Engagement.

Students are selected to participate in the Young Scholars Program from nine school districts in Ohio: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lorain, Toledo and Youngstown, according to the release.

“The total, nine-city operational budget for the Young Scholars Program is $296,000,” Lewis said.

Lewis said the number of students nominated to be Young Scholars each year varies.

“Throughout the nine cities, a ballpark figure could be around 500 total. Last year, Cleveland alone had 161 nominations for 20 spots,” Lewis said. He added that about 120 Young Scholars are officially selected each year.

Students are selected for OSU’s Young Scholars Program after going through a process that includes a look at academic performance, community involvement and family circumstances. Students must come from low-income families and be in the first generation of their families to graduate from a four-year university with at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.

Harris said her family was supportive of her participation in the program.

“My family has always encouraged me to just keep going,” Harris said. “They would tell me things like ‘I know it’s rough but you’re going to finish,’ which helped a lot when I was stressed out in school.”

If selected, students are expected to commit to college preparatory classes in high school and maintain at least a 3.3 GPA. Those who meet the requirements will be admitted to OSU and given a financial aid package based on their need, according to the website.

Harris said that financial assistance drew criticism from other students in high school who were not involved with the program.

“They would ask me about my ACT scores and questioned how I was getting a full-ride to OSU if they had a higher score than me,” Harris said. “It was very condescending.”

Harris said she intends to pursue a degree in human development and family sciences and hopes to later start a nonprofit organization.

Jawan Davila-Love, a first year in exploration who plans on pursuing a career in the music industry as either an artist or a music producer, said in an email that being a part of the program helped him prepare for OSU as well.

“Students who are currently in the program are given information, tips, as well as opportunities to learn exactly what is required of you once you’re enrolled at the Ohio State University,” Davila-Love said. “All of that really puts you ahead of other students going into college having no idea of what to expect.”

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